Since medical professionals understand more about the nature of dog bite injuries, the average injury settlement has increased significantly in recent years.
Typically, the higher the medical bills, the higher the settlement. These expenses are usually the largest part of an injury settlement. That’s especially true in falls, dog bites, and other premises liability claims which usually don’t involve property damage. Additionally, medical bills show the extent of emotional distress. If Bill wears a boot on his ankle, his pain and suffering are usually minimal. If Bill has multiple surgeries on his ankle, his pain and suffering are most likely through the roof.
If a Lexington personal injury attorney proves negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not, substantial compensation is available.
The aforementioned settlement figure is a bit misleading. It’s a nationwide average. The average animal attack settlement is usually higher in states like Kentucky which have victim-friendly dog bite laws. Rules and statutes in the Bluegrass State give dog bite victims a number of options, such as:
- Strict Liability: Some states have caved into pet owner interests and watered down their dog bite laws. But Kentucky has one of the most strongly-worded strict liability laws in the country. Owners are liable for all animal attack “damage to a person, livestock, or other property.”
- Scienter (Knowledge): The so-called one bite rule applies in most states, including Kentucky. If the owner knew the animal was dangerous when it attacked, the owner could be liable for damages. Evidence of knowledge normally includes aggressive growling, sudden lunging, and other threatening pre-bite behavior.
- Negligence Per Se: Most localities in Kentucky have very strict animal restraint laws, like leash laws and fence laws. That’s especially true if a court has declared a dog is dangerous. Owners could be liable for damages if they break such a safety law and their animal attacks someone.
Each legal theory has some pros and cons. Your Lexington personal injury attorney can select the correct theory based on the facts of the case and some other variables.
Most animal attacks are really two attacks: the knockdown and the bite. Both attacks cause serious visible injuries. That’s especially true if, as is usually the case, the victim was a small child and the animal was a large dog.
The knockdown usually causes a head injury. When the victim falls, the brain slams against the skull. As a result, blood collects between the skull and scalp. Only brain surgery can address this wound. Even then, the brain damage is usually permanent.
Knockdowns also cause broken bones. Generally, doctors must use very invasive tactics to reconstruct these bones. If the victim is a small child, this surgery is very delicate and expensive.
Young children usually suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following animal attacks. Some PTSD symptoms, which make it difficult or impossible to function in everyday life, include:
- Mood swings,
- Hypervigilance, and
Many of these symptoms have indirect effects. Nightmares are a good example. When children have nightmares, they usually have trouble sleeping. Therefore, they are drowsy during the day and they’re unable to keep pace with the business of life. That’s very frustrating for a small child, and the downward spiral continues.
Contrary to popular myth, PTSD is a physical injury, just like the aforementioned broken bones. Excessive stress shrinks the cerebral cortex and enlarges the amygdala. So, these victims cannot respond logically to everyday events.
Resolving a Dog Bite Claim
We mentioned injury settlements above. Almost all dog bite claims settle out of court. Although the liability issues are complex, the injuries are usually gruesome. Homeowners insurance companies, which position themselves as friendly companies who lend a helping hand, don’t want that kind of negative publicity.
A few injury claims settle almost immediately. However, insurance companies usually use liability questions as an excuse to drag their feet. So, to motivate the insurance company, many attorneys file legal paperwork shortly after medical treatment is at least substantially complete.
That filing usually triggers a mandatory mediation requirement. Most Fayette County judges won’t put a case on the trial docket until the parties attend mediation, which is basically a court-supervised negotiation session. Since both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith during mediation, these sessions are almost always successful, at least in part.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.