Dog attacks are exceptionally traumatic experiences, often causing serious injuries, severe emotional harm, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Ohio law provides that victims may be able to hold the dog owner liable for damages. There are certain elements of proof that you must be able to establish and certain steps you must take, though. For more information or for help obtaining compensation for your injuries, call our dog bite attorney at Levy Law Offices in Cincinnati and request a free consultation: 513-587-1323.
Why do dogs bite?
Dogs bite over 4 million people every year in America, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is not just wild or mistreated dogs that bite and attack; even family pets can lash out if aggravated or startled. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) explains that there are many reasons dogs may bite:
- Reacting to a stressful situation
- Defending its territory
- Protecting its food, puppies, or toys
- Feeling scared, startled, or threatened
- Wanting to be left alone due to illness or injury
- Aggressive play and over-excitement
- Poor socialization
- Unfamiliarity with setting, people, or children
- Natural aggressive tendencies
Some dogs may attack because owners have poorly trained or — worse — purposely trained them to be aggressive. However, “big or small, male or female, young or old, any dog can bite. Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked,” according to the AVMA.
Dog bite injury lawyer explains: Why do dogs bite?
In most instances, yes, dog bite victims in Ohio can hold the dog owner liable for their injuries and damages. Some states provide a “one-bite rule” for dog bite case, which essentially allows dogs one “free” bite before the dog owner is liable for damages the dog causes. In these states, the victim might be out of luck if the dog had never shown signs of aggression before.
Fortunately, Ohio’s dog bite laws are much more victim-friendly than that. Ohio is a strict liability state, which means that owners are liable for victims’ damages, regardless of whether or not the dog has bitten before. The statutes are very straightforward. ORC § 955.28(B) states: “The owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog.” (A “keeper” is someone who has control over the animal, such as a pet sitter. A “harborer” is someone who controls the property the dog is on, such as a landlord.)
The only time a dog owner (defendant) is not responsible for a victim’s damages is when the victim was:
- Committing a felony at the time of the attack
- Teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog
What do I need to prove in order to win my case?
As the victim, you will have the burden of proof in order to win your case. There are only three elements you need to establish:
- The defendant was the owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog.
- The dog caused your injuries. (Normally this means directly, i.e., bit you, but it could also be indirectly, such as if it viciously chased you and you tripped, fell, and hit your head.)
- You sustained actual damages. (Emotional harms are compensable, but in order to file a personal injury claim against the owner, you must have sustained actual losses, such as medical bills and lost wage.)
Also, if the owner/insurer tries to refute your claim by saying that you were trespassing, you will need to prove that you were lawfully on the premises. Your lawyer can help gather the evidence necessary to support your claim.
How do dog attacks affect victims?
Victims of severe dog attacks sustain substantial damages — both financial and emotional. There may be a lot of expenses for medical bills and rehabilitation, not to mention lost work time during recovery. Victims may need multiple reconstructive surgeries, each of which carries its own risks, causes victims anxiety, and accrues more debt. Plus, many wounds become infected, which can lead to dangerous or even fatal complications.
Even long after the wounds have healed, life is often never the same for victims again. Scarring and disfigurement on the face and extremities is quite common with dog attacks, which can completely alter a victim’s appearance and body image and lead to major social anxiety disorders. Counseling, medication, and cognitive therapies can help, but it can be very hard to return to “normal life” after the attack. In fact, every aspect of victims’ lives can take a hit, including finances, work, relationships, general sense of well-being in life.
What types of damages can I recover?
Victims can recover most monetary and non-monetary damages after a dog bite in Ohio. This includes:
- Current and future medical bills
- Transportation to medical visits
- Counseling and mental health treatments
- Prescriptions and surgeries
- Lost wages and lost capacity to work
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- The effect of the injuries on the person’s relationships, career, and enjoyment in life
The above list is only a sample of potential compensable damages. You will want to have an attorney thoroughly assess your case and calculate the value of your claim.
How do I get started with a dog bite claim?
For help pursuing compensation after a dog attack in Cincinnati, call a dog bite attorney at Levy Law Offices. We can help you gather the information and evidence you need, and then file a claim with the owner’s homeowner’s insurance company or against the owner directly.
We will take the time to understand the impact the attack has had on your life and demand compensation for your losses from the insurer/court. Rest assured, when you work with us, our team will fight for a fullest settlement possible on your behalf.
Contact us today at 513-587-1323 for a free consultation.