Being attacked by a dog can be a terrifying and painful experience in more ways than one. As compensation for that attack, the owner may offer you a dog bite settlement. They may present you with an opportunity to recoup compensation that does not involve partaking in the legal process.
So, how much can you expect to receive in the settlement? More importantly, should you accept that settlement over pursuing a lawsuit in court?
Those are some of the difficult questions you will need to answer following the dog attack. Figure out what your response should be by continuing with the rest of this article by our expert Connecticut dog bite lawyer.
What Is the Average Worth of a Dog Bite Settlement?
Let’s get to the main topic right away. How much are you likely to get if you accept a settlement from the owner of the dog that attacked you?
On average, dog bite settlements are worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $50,000.
Expect to get a lower offer if the injuries you sustained from the attack are relatively minor. The dog owner may offer you that kind of settlement to get out of dealing with the legal process. They may figure that paying around $30,000 is worth it if it means they can put this ordeal behind them.
If you say that the amount they are offering is not enough, they may pull the offer from the table. Consider that possibility when you and your personal injury lawyer are negotiating with the other party.
What Are the Factors That Affect the Dog Bite Settlement Amount?
Whether or not the owner will offer you a substantial settlement will depend on several factors. Let’s go over some of those key factors in this section of the article.
Visible injuries can make a strong impression on people. Once people see the deep scars on your arms and legs, they may sympathize with you more. The chances of you recouping substantial compensation increase significantly if you have visible injuries.
Given the severity of your injuries, you can approach the dog owner and reasonably claim that you deserve a large settlement. If they do not agree with your assessment of the situation, you can move forward with a lawsuit. You may even end up with more substantial compensation by going down that route.
Some of the injuries you sustained from the dog bites may be so severe that they have disabled you in some way. That could be the case for certain brain injuries. They can be considered life-changing injuries.
You can take the dog owner to court in that situation, knowing that you have a strong case. They cannot deny the effect of the attack, and they will need to compensate you well for that.
If they want to avoid heading to court with the odds, not on their side, they will likely need to offer you a hefty settlement offer.
Long-Term Effects of Your Injuries
The long-term effects of the injuries you sustained can also influence the settlement offer you receive from the dog owner.
Remember that those compensation packages also typically account for the medical expenses the plaintiff will need to pay to manage the injuries they received.
You and your lawyer should mention that during your negotiations with the dog owner. If they do not want to include future medical expenses in the calculations for your settlement, then mention that you are willing to take the matter to court. Do not allow them to short-change you when it comes to your compensation.
Your Share of Responsibility for the Incident
During your negotiations with the other party, they may mention that you also bear responsibility for the attack. They may claim that you were teasing or abusing their dog. From there, they may claim that your behavior is the reason the dog attacked you in the first place.
The dog owner is making that claim for a reason.
Under Connecticut law, plaintiffs can only recover damages for a dog attack if they were not teasing or abusing the animal beforehand. That means you could lose out on compensation if the dog owner can prove that you were indeed doing those things to provoke their pet.
They may only be hitting you with an empty threat, but it can still be effective. You may second-guess yourself, which could lead to you accepting a settlement offer that does not cover all of your expenses.
Connecticut Following the Principle of Strict Liability
One more thing that could influence the settlement offer you get from the other party is the state of Connecticut follows the principle of strict liability in dog bite cases.
Connecticut being a strict liability state is a big deal. Dog owners effectively lose one key defense if strict liability is in effect.
You see, in states that follow the “one bite” rule for dog attacks, owners can claim that they were unaware of their pet’s aggressive tendencies. They may avoid liability for that first attack.
Strict liability does not pay any mind to how owners perceived their dogs. As far as the law is concerned, an owner should be responsible for any injuries caused by their dog. How the owner perceived their dog’s behavior beforehand will not make a difference.
Why does this matter for your settlement negotiations? Well, you can tell the dog owner that they will need to cover your expenses one way or another because they have no reasonable defense left to use. Since the “one bite” rule is not present to offer them any protection, they will either increase their settlement offer or risk paying more by going to court.
What Role Could Insurance Play in Your Dog Bite Case?
Negotiating a settlement and going to court are not the only ways you can resolve a dog bite case. There may be a third option available if the dog owner has insurance.
Let’s go over the different ways that insurance could help pet owners out of a tough spot.
Protection Provided by Pet Liability Insurance
First off, a dog owner could take out a pet liability policy. Pet liability insurance protects people from the unpredictable actions of their pets. If your dog attacks someone, your pet liability insurance could help you pay for the affected party’s expenses.
Pet liability insurance is often more comprehensive compared to other policies that offer coverage for dog bites. For example, some insurance policies will not provide coverage for certain breeds. Pet liability policies will often cover all dogs regardless of breed.
This type of policy can prove useful to pet owners, but some may also deem it unnecessary. You will need to figure out if this kind of policy makes sense for your dog.
Coverage Included in Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance
You do not need to take out a pet liability policy to shield yourself against making hefty payments if your dog attacks someone. The protection you need could already be in your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
The coverage you could potentially get from those policies is also not a paltry amount. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the relevant liability limits for homeowner’s and renter’s policies usually fall in the range of $100,000 to $300,000. That is a good amount of coverage and that could suffice in your case.
However, you cannot assume that dog bite coverage will be in your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Some providers do not include dog bite protection in their mandatory coverage. You may need to pay extra for that addition.
The breed of your dog may also matter if you are seeking coverage from your homeowner’s or renter’s policy. Some companies may charge higher premiums because of your dog’s breed. Others may flatly refuse to offer coverage because of your pet’s breed.
How Insurance Could Be Helpful to the Victim and the Pet Owner
The presence of insurance in dog bite cases can be helpful to both sides.
For the victim, the presence of insurance gives them a potentially easier way to secure the compensation they need. The dog owner may not force them to court or enter into drawn-out negotiations because they know they have insurance.
Hopefully, the insurer is also willing to settle things quickly so you can get your money right away.
For the pet owner, the insurance protects them from making payments they cannot afford. Expenses can pile up quickly for dog bite victims, and pet owners cannot keep up with all of them. Insurance gives them a way to offer compensation to the victim promptly.
Should You Pursue a Settlement or Move Forward with Your Lawsuit?
Securing compensation is likely your primary goal if a dog recently attacked you. Fail to secure proper compensation, and you may have a mountain of medical bills that you cannot pay.
So, how should you go about obtaining the compensation you need? Should you negotiate a settlement with the owner, or should you take them to court?
Consider some important variables before you make a final decision regarding that matter. Let’s go over those factors below.
Your Chances of Winning the Case
When deciding between settling or filing a lawsuit, you should first consider your chances of winning the case. Evaluate the merits of your case honestly because you cannot afford to make a mistake here. Consult with your personal injury lawyer as well and seek their insight on the matter.
Remember that Connecticut’s dog bite laws are generally more favorable to the victims. The strict liability principle takes away an oft-used defense for pet owners, and that is a big deal.
If you believe that you have a strong case and the dog owner is not budging from their low offer, you can push forward with a lawsuit confidently.
The Amount of Compensation You Receive
Throughout this article, we have discussed the amount of compensation you can receive from the dog owner. We have talked about how much you can receive if you settle with the dog owner. We also touched on how much you can take home if you are compensated by the dog owner’s insurer.
With those numbers in mind, you may have a clear idea of how much you should receive in terms of compensation if you decide to settle. Of course, the other party may not agree with your assessment.
If the amount they are offering is considerably lower than what you think you can receive, you can justify going through with the lawsuit.
Your Urgent Need for Compensation
How soon do you need the compensation? If the hospital is already bothering you to make payments, that may affect your final decision here.
Settling with the dog owner may allow you to secure compensation quickly. Once you agree to a number, it may only take a couple of days for the dog owner to give you the money.
Suing them could draw out the matter considerably. There is no telling how long your case could drag on, especially if the other party is fighting you fiercely every step of the way.
Unfortunately, something like this could affect your decision, but that is reality. Sometimes, variables out of control could decide for you.
Work closely with your lawyer to determine if you are making the right move. Seek counsel from them as well as they can help you navigate this difficult situation.
Settling your dog bite case has its pros and cons. Hopefully, you are already aware of what you need to do after evaluating all of those points.
Regardless of your decision, we at Hassett & George, P.C. can help you out. Contact us today and let us tackle your dog bite case together.