Individuals recovering from dog bite injuries may be concerned about financial stresses that might surface after a dog attack. Understanding how dog bite cases are valued in North Carolina, which is similar in other states, can help victims navigate pursuing a claim.
The victim of a dog attack generally pursues compensation for their injuries through the dog's owner. North Carolina has the one-bite rule, which means if the owner is aware of at least one incident where the dog bit or attacked, the owner is responsible for any future bites caused by the dog.
When pursuing compensation, the victim may negotiate with the dog owner's property insurance company (if one is present) or file suit directly against the dog owner. A State Farm spokesperson stated in 2016 that the average payout for a dog bite claim is more than $37,000. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), more than $571,300,000 was paid by insurance companies for dog bite claims in 2015. Both homeowners and renters insurance policies may have provisions for compensating dog bite victims. (Of course, if a third party contributed to the attack, the victim might have an additional party to file suit against. Examples of this would be if the owner secured the property with a fence and the fence was not installed properly or the fence manufacturer's product was defective.)
According to III, "Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability legal expenses, up to the liability limits (typically $100,000 to $300,000)." This means if the bite damage resulted in fees in excess of these figures, the victim might exhaust the policy and pursue the owner for the balance. This might include placing a lien on the owner's property, garnishing wages of the dog owner, or conducting an asset search. In some cases, the owner has insufficient assets.
When negotiating with an insurance company or building evidence for a trial, several factors influence case valuation:
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Lost wages (time away from work)
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional / psychological trauma
- Paralysis or loss of mobility
- Geographic location of the dog attack
Regarding the last bullet above, the dog owner may face additional financial fines or penalties if they were in violation of a municipal code. Learn more about dog bite injury damages.
Another expense individuals should realistically consider is the cost to pursue a claim. Aside from attorney fees and court costs, there are filing fees, expert testimonies, trial exhibit developments, medical record search and compilation, and more. Our dog bite attorneys in Raleigh only collect a fee when we win a case for our client. We provide free case reviews where we can explain how the unique circumstances of a victim's dog attack could influence valuation of their claim. Learn more about valuing North Carolina injury claims.