About 4.5 million dog bites occur every year. Tragically, small children are the most likely to suffer a dog bite, sometimes resulting in lifelong emotional scars. So how do you seek compensation if you suffer a dog bite injury? After all, you cannot sue a dog. The solution in most cases is to retain a Louisville dog bite lawyer to file a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner.
Kentucky Dog Bite Law
Unlike many states, Kentucky has no single dog bite law. Instead, the dog bite rules consist of several statutes that apply under various circumstances.
Over a dozen states apply a “one-bite rule” that allows the owner to escape liability if the dog had shown no aggressive tendencies before. Kentucky is not one of these states. In Kentucky, the dog owner is strictly liable for any damages caused by their dog, no matter how peaceful its disposition has been in the past. This liability is not limited to bites—it can include other injuries including injury to livestock and property damage. Therefore, your chances of winning a dog bite claim in Kentucky are pretty high.
Should You Sue Your Neighbor? Insurance Coverage for Dog Bites
In a great percentage of dog bite cases, the dog owner is a neighbor or a friend of the victim. If you suffered a dog bite inflicted by your neighbor’s dog, you might be hesitant to press forward with a claim. After all, you might not want to force your neighbor to sell his house to pay your claim. Fortunately, it is relatively unlikely that your neighbor would have to pay the claim themselves.
Most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies cover dog bites. In fact, dog bite claims are one of the most common types of claims paid out by homeowners’ insurance policies. Beware, howeverーmany homeowners’ insurance policies contain exclusions for certain types of dogs, such as Rottweilers.
Damages for a dog bite claim break down into the same categories of damages that make up other personal injury claims, including:
- Current and future medical expenses;
- Lost earnings;
- Incidental expenses such as child care;
- Pain and suffering;
- Disfigurement, if the victim is permanently maimed; and
- Psychological counseling, if the victim suffered emotional trauma.
Normally, the remedy for a dog bite is limited to money damages. Only in rare cases will the dog be put to sleep or the owner charged with a crime.
How Much Is a Dog Bite Claim Worth?
In the United States, the average dog bite claim is now worth over $50,000, at least if the claim is paid by insurance. As long as the insurance company pays the claim, the only expense to the dog owner is likely to be the deductible, and perhaps, higher insurance premiums in the future.
In most dog bite claims, the dog’s owner is solely liable for damages. In some cases, however, a third party may be liable. The most common third-party defendants include:
- The parents of a dog owner, if the owner is a minor under the age of 18. The law limits your ability to sue a minor.
- A landlord, if the landlord negligently allowed the dog onto their property.
- A dog’s keeper—this could include someone who regularly feeds a stray dog, a negligent dog sitter, or the owner of a kennel.
- A property owner. You can sue a property owner under premises liability principles if the owner allows a dog that they do not own onto their property and it bites someone.
Suing a third party does not necessarily prevent you from suing the dog’s owner. In some cases, you can sue both parties.
Defense: Comparative Fault
Many states codify dog bite defenses like provocation and trespassing. In some states, for example, the dog bite victim must prove that they did not provoke the dog. Another possible defense arises when a burglar or other trespasser suffers a dog bite. Should a dog owner have to pay a burglar for dog bite injuries sustained while robbing the dog owner’s home? Well, trespassing is a complete defense to a dog bite claim in many states.
Kentucky subsumes all possible defenses to a dog bite claim under its “pure comparative fault” system. Under this system, the court assigns a percentage of fault to each party. Each party will pay its own damages based on this percentage.
Suppose, for example, that the dog bite victim provoked the dog. If the court found the victim 35% at fault and the dog owner 65% at fault, the dog owner would pay 65% of the victim’s damages and the victim would pay the remainder of their own damages.
For instance, if the victim suffered $30,000 in damages, the owner would pay 65% of $30,000, or $19,500. The victim would pay 35% of their own damages, or $10,500. Naturally, a court would be highly unlikely to assign any fault at all to a dog owner whose dog bit a burglar.
The Statute of Limitations
The Kentucky statute of limitations tells you how long after the bite you can file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, in all likelihood your claim will lose all of its value immediately. In Kentucky, the general deadline is one year after the bite, subject to certain very narrow exceptions.
Settling vs. Suing
Most victims resolve their dog bite claims through negotiations with an insurance company. However, you might need to file a lawsuit to gain access to certain evidence-gathering resources and to prove to the insurance company that you mean business. The best approach is usually to attempt to settle but be ready to sue.
You Don’t Pay Us Unless You Win Your Claim
At Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC., we win almost all of our claims. Louisville dog bite attorney Seth Gladstein makes sure of this. Consequently, we can afford to waive our fees on the rare occasions when we don’t. That means you owe us nothing unless you win your claim, and your money actually arrives.
Act quickly, because the Kentucky statute of limitations clock is ticking. Contact us online or call us at (800) 991-0474 today to schedule a free consultation with a Louisville dog injury lawyer.