You’ve undoubtedly heard people refer to a dog as “man’s best friend.” However, that opinion is not universal. People who have been attacked or bitten by a dog often endure severe and lasting physical and emotional trauma. Fortunately, the law affords these victims some comfort in the form of monetary compensation for their present and future medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. To succeed on their claims, victims must prove that their injuries are serious. The severity of the injury will determine not only how much compensation the victim will receive, but also whether the victim is entitled to any compensation at all.
Dog owners aren’t likely to offer full payment for all your losses: only a court can compel a dog’s owner—or the owner’s insurer—to pay. Because everything may hinge on a demonstration that your injuries are serious, it’s critical that you retain an experienced dog bite attorney with a proven ability to get results.
At Slater& Zurz LLP, our first priority is our clients’ well-being—physical, emotional, and financial. We will delve into all the facts bearing on the nature and severity of your injuries to build the most compelling case possible, to obtain the compensation you deserve. We’ve been successfully handling dog bite cases for over 40 years. In fact, our managing partner, Jim Slater, was threatened by a dog as a young boy. Although he managed to avoid a physical attack, he remembers the incident to this day, and will “go the extra mile” to ensure that dog bite victims get justice. If you’ve been bitten by someone else’s dog, call or email us to schedule a free consultation with one of our dog bite attorneys. We’ll review your claim, answer your questions, and suggest the best strategy for recovering the compensation to which you’re entitled.
A serious dog bite is more than a scratch, but need not entail the loss of a limb or of life.
Whether and how much you can recover for a dog bite depends on the severity of the bite. Does a simple scratch from a dog suffice? Is a minor injury along with serious emotional trauma enough? Or does the victim have to suffer serious disfigurement or lose a limb to succeed on his or her claim?
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Dr. Ian Dunbar developed a Dog Bite Scale classifying dog bites into six bite levels, ranging from minor injuries to severe bites that result in death. Veterinarians around the world rely on Dr. Dunbar’s guide.
- Level 1: Pre-Bite
At Level 1, the dog has not yet made physical contact with the victim, and therefore has not yet bitten the victim. Typically, the dog is biting or snapping in the air. Although the dog may not seem particularly dangerous, it is hostile and showing signs that it might actually bite.
Some veterinarians have argued that dogs behaving this way have consciously chosen not to bite anyone: because dogs are faster than humans, the dog would have bitten the victim if it intended to do so. Hence, the dog’s behavior is intended to serve as a warning to a human or another dog. Others disagree. The dog could have attempted to bite the victim but simply failed in its quest.
At this level, no actual harm has occurred. The victim has not sustained any physical injury. Consequently, it is unlikely that a dog bite claim will succeed.
- Level 2: Near Bite
At Level 2, the dog has made physical contact, leaving the victim with small marks, bruises, or scratches. Although the dog’s teeth contacted the victim’s skin, the skin was not punctured. Injuries at this level are not that serious. However, the dog has demonstrated that it is aggressive and is willing to harm the victim. The victim should leave immediately if possible.
Level 1 and Level 2 bites are the most common, comprising 99% of all dog bite incidents. At this level, the victim may assert a claim based on minor physical injury coupled with emotional trauma. The success of the claim will depend on the circumstances of the case. Because the injuries are minor, the likelihood of success is not very high.
- Level 3: Serious Single Bite or Multiple Bites involving Shallow Skin Punctures
At Level 3, the dog has made physical contact with the victim, involving simple bruising or touching and shallow skin punctures. These skin punctures are shallower than half the length of the dog’s teeth, and can be the product of a single bite or multiple bites. All punctures must be shallow.
The victim should report the bite immediately. He or she is at risk of serious infection and can contract rabies if the dog was not properly vaccinated. The dog is considered to be very aggressive and can cause further harm.
Many veterinarians believe that at this stage, the dog is biting without thinking, increasing the danger. The degree of harm may depend on who the victim is. For example, if no disease or infection is transmitted, an adult may not suffer any serious injury and may recover quickly. However, a child—particularly a small child—may experience serious injuries and may have to undergo a difficult and painful recovery. Following a dog bite at this level, the dog should be considered dangerous.
The likelihood of success on a claim based on Level 3 bites is fairly high. The victim was in a perilous situation, and probably experienced emotional trauma as well as physical injury. If you or your child suffered a dog attack involving shallow skin punctures, you should report the incident to law enforcement or the local animal control officer, and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
If you or your child was injured by a dog, if you’ve incurred medical expenses, if you’ve had to miss work, or if you’ve suffered emotional trauma, we’re here to help you. If you’re not sure whether you have a strong claim, take advantage of our decades of experience successfully handling dog bite claims. We’ve represented victims who suffered a wide range of injuries, from shallow punctures coupled with persistent anxiety to permanent disfigurement or disabilities requiring painful surgery and grueling weeks or months recovering from their wounds. Call or email us to schedule a free consultation with one of our dog bite attorneys. We’ll evaluate your claim and, if we take your case, we’ll represent you free of charge unless we win for you.
- Level 4: A Single Very Serious Bite involving Deep Skin Punctures
At Level 4, the dog has successfully bitten the victim. Often, the dog has clamped down on the victim’s skin or has bitten the victim and shaken its head (while holding onto the victim with its teeth). At Level 4, the victim suffers from a single bite that results in one to four deep punctures of the skin. A Level 4 puncture is deeper than half the length of the dog’s teeth. The victim may also suffer from slashes in both directions from the puncture as well as deep bruising.
Victims experiencing bites at this level typically experience considerable pain and are at risk of serious infection, as well as severe emotional trauma. Dog bites at this level have the potential to kill a child. As in the case of Level 3 bites, if you or your child suffers a Level 4 bite, you should promptly report the incident to the proper authorities and seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Level 4 claims have a high likelihood of success, particularly if the victim is represented early on by an experienced dog bite attorney with demonstrated expertise in personal injury law. An attorney can negotiate with the dog owner’s insurance company to ensure that the victim doesn’t get pressured into an inadequate lowball settlement. An attorney can see that medical records, veterinary records, incident reports, payroll records, and other necessary documents are collected and preserved. An attorney can protect the victim from any inappropriate insurance interviews designed to elicit damaging information irrelevant to the dog bite claim. Most importantly, an experienced attorney can build a compelling case to persuade the dog owner’s insurer, its lawyers, or, if necessary, a jury, that the victim is entitled to compensation for all bite-related losses.
- Level 5: Very Serious Multiple Bites Involving Deep Skin Punctures
At Level 5, the dog has successfully bitten the victim and clamped down on the victim’s skin or shaken its head while holding onto the victim. However, unlike a Level 4 bite, a Level 5 bite involves multiple bites. Like a Level 4 bite, a Level 5 bite could be fatal to a child.
The victim of a Level 5 bite is highly likely to succeed due to the seriousness of the physical injury and the emotional trauma experienced.
- Level 6: Bites that Lead to Death
Level 6 bites are rare. Not only has the dog bitten the victim, but it has also taken the victim’s life and may have consumed the victim’s flesh. It is possible to suffer from infections (as a result of dog bites at Levels 3, 4, or 5) that can prove to be fatal, just as a Level 3, 4, or 5 bite can result in the death of a young child. Claims filed on behalf of a victim for the wrongful death of the victim and for the victim’s pain and suffering before death have a high probability of success.
If you are bitten by someone else’s dog, trust a full-service law firm to protect your interests.
For a number of reasons, you may hesitate to file a claim against the owner of a dog that has bitten you. Although it’s rare, even the gentlest dog can react in an unanticipated manner with tragic results. A dog that appears well-behaved may have bitten someone else in the past. A dog that got loose and bit you may have a history of breaking free from its owner’s control. Even a friend’s dog that knows you may suddenly bite you for no apparent reason.
If you’ve been injured by someone else’s dog, you deserve to be compensated. Especially if the dog qualifies as “dangerous,” taking legal action may cause the dog’s owner to more securely confine the dog and prevent someone else from going through what you’ve experienced. Once your medical issues are under control, reach out to a full-service law firm with experience in dog bite cases.
Like so many others who have placed their trust in us, you can count on Slater & Zurz to thoroughly evaluate your claim, answer your questions, and suggest what we believe are the most productive strategies for success in your case, based on your circumstances and the expertise we’ve developed over the years handling dog-bite and personal injury cases. Call or email our team of seasoned professionals for a free consultation. We’re here to serve your legal needs with compassion, dedication, and the drive to win for you.