Dog bites occur every 75 seconds each day in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means one in 50 Americans has a chance of being bitten every day and that 1,000 citizens will seek emergency medical care for their injuries. One out of five of these 4.5 million bites will become infected and some will turn deadly for various reasons.
Dog bites can cause serious injuries including compound fractures, facial lacerations, puncture wounds, internal injuries, nerve damage, scarring, disfigurement and lifelong emotional trauma. In addition, dogs are known to carry more than 60 different kinds of bacteria in their mouths. Although not all of these bacteria can make a human sick, there are some diseases such as rabies, the antibiotic-resistant MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and tetanus that can be passed to humans and can be life-threatening.
Common Reasons Dog Bite Victims Don’t Take Action
Yet many people who get serious bites don’t take any action to obtain compensation for their attack. Why are they so reluctant?
There are many reasons, but some likely ones may be:
• Dog bite victims do not know the law on dog bites in Ohio. They do not realize Ohio is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites and that this can often favor the bite victim. “Strict liability” means if you or a loved one is bitten anywhere in Ohio, the dog’s owner, harborer or keeper– (a “harborer” is in control of the place where the dog lives; a “keeper” is in charge of the animal, if only temporarily)– will be held liable for any injuries or damages caused by the dog. The victim does not have to prove the dog’s owner was negligent and the dog does not have to prove he exercised care in handling of the animal. The victim must only prove that he or she was bitten and the dog caused injury or other damage. The victim also does not have to worry that he must show the dog has a history of biting incidents.
• A bite victim may neglect to act if he or she fears if they sue a neighbor, friend, or family member this will cause that person to suffer financial hardship and ruin a once-strong relationship with that person. In reality, an insurance company often assumes the damages under the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance policy which usually offers liability coverage in the $100,000 to $300,000 range depending on the circumstances. (Many companies will not cover certain breeds or a dog that has caused serious injury more than once.)
• A bite victim may not realize that damages from a dog bite can run into the thousands of dollars. If someone doesn’t pay these costs, the victim may have to cover expenses.
• Sometimes victims do not consider if they take action against the owner of a dangerous animal, they not only secure much-needed compensation for their injuries, but make the community safer by preventing others from being attacked by the dog.
Victims Can Pursue Simultaneous Claims
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that a dog bite victim can pursue claims under both Ohio’s “strict liability” statute and common law negligence in the same incident.
Exceptions to Dog Owner Liability
Sometimes when someone is injured, the dog owner is not legally responsible. In Ohio this generally occurs when:
• Someone has provoked the dog.
• Someone is criminally trespassing on the dog owner’s property.
• The injured person was breaking the law when the bite occurred.
A dog owner can successfully defend a lawsuit from a bite victim if he can show a person tormented, teased or abused his dog. Sometimes people unintentionally provoke a dog by stepping on its tail, for example, but the dog is still considered provoked. Also, in this category are petting a dog while it is eating or intervening in a dog fight. In some states if a child is very young, it is presumed the child does not possess the judgment to “provoke” the animal or avoid dangerous situations.
Regarding trespassing, the person injured (bitten) must be lawfully in a private place when the injury occurs. A general rule is that a dog owner who could reasonably expect someone to be on their property—such as members of the public who approach a door on a common errand to try to sell something or ask directions—is probably going to be liable for any injury that “visitor” suffers involving a dog on the property. That person has an “implied invitation” to be on the premises. Children who are likely to wander on to a property are included in this group. There is a legal responsibility to prevent the child from coming on to the property or to keep the dog from injuring the child.
Landlords Generally Not Responsible for Dog Attacks in Ohio
Some people would categorize landlords as “harborers” because they could be seen as a person who controls the place where a dog lives. In Ohio, however, landlords are not generally considered responsible for damages caused by a renter’s dog because renters have exclusive possession and control of the property they rent. When the dog bite occurs in a common area of the property, such as a shared yard or hallway, the landlord may be considered the dog’s “harborer” because he is deemed to have control of these common areas. In this case, the landlord may be liable for any injuries and damages.
Also, if the renter’s dog is vicious, and the landlord is aware of this vicious dog on the property and allows it to remain, the landlord could be liable for any bites or damage caused by the dog.
Statute of Limitations
The amount of time a victim has to file a dog bite claim in Ohio is slightly different than the statute of limitations for other claims. A person has six years from the date of the bite in which to file suit against the individual who was the owner, harborer or keeper of the animal at the time the incident happened. For children the time frame is longer. A child has six years beyond his or her eighteenth birthday in which to file a lawsuit.
This does not mean if you believe you have a viable dog bite lawsuit that you have plenty of time to take action. Your lawyer will assure you that the sooner you act the better as there is much to evidence to be gathered and much to be accomplished to successfully pursue such a claim.
The High Cost of Dog Bites
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has calculated that a dog-bite related hospital stay averages about $20,000 a person. A stay is slightly more than three days. The annual aggregate cost of a dog-bite related hospital stay in the United States (2010 figures) is $53.9 million.
This does not include any costs of reconstructive surgery which must be performed. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported in 2015 that more than 28,000 people received this type of surgery following a dog bite at a cost of millions of dollars. Annual monetary loss for dog bite treatment in America now stands at more than $1 billion.
These are not the type of expenses the average person can easily assume. Seeking compensation for your injuries is the right thing to do. An experienced dog bite attorney, such as those at our law firm will conduct a free initial consultation and answer any questions you may have about the dog bite claim process and Ohio laws regarding dog bites. The attorney may also ask you several questions such as how the attack occurred, if anyone witnessed it, and if you sought immediate medical help.
What an Experienced Attorney Can Do for You
If you decide to retain our firm, your experienced dog bite attorney will:
• Prepare and file all necessary and required documents for the claim and lawsuit.
• Perform an investigation including interviewing witnesses, assembling all incident reports, medical reports and other evidence necessary to support the claim.
• Engage professional experts to assist with investigations, evaluations and preparation of reports.
• Obtain and analyze insurance policies to determine coverage available for all injuries and damages.
• Analyze all laws and cases pertinent to the client’s dog bite claim.
• Contact the relevant insurance company about the claim and discuss fair and reasonable alternatives for settlement.
• If negotiations do not result in a fair and reasonable settlement, the attorney will begin trial proceedings which includes requests for production of information from the defendant, depositions, and filing of necessary motions and briefs.
• At all times, answer all client questions and communicate with the client about the progress of the case.
If you believe you have a case for damages resulting from a dog bite and deserve compensation for the injuries you or a loved one has sustained, please contact us today by calling 1-888-998-9101, chatting with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or send us a website message. Your life or your child’s should not be ruined or lessened in scope due to the actions of an irresponsible dog owner.