The most common damages for dog bites are the initial care and treatment in the emergency room because dog bites do require emergency room treatment. You will need antibiotics, you’ve got to get the wound cleaned, you may need a tetanus shot, etc. If the dog has not had its shots, then you may need a rabies shot, too.
Scarring and Disfigurement
The second part of these claims are usually the scarring that results. Sometimes, it’s just a puncture wound and those wounds heal up nicely. Often, we see considerable tearing of the skin from the bite. This can result in permanent scarring, not uncommonly on the back of the thigh if the dog bite victim is an adult. Unfortunately, for children it is very frequently on the face.
Calculating Damages for Disfigurement
When we’re trying to calculate damages for disfigurement, we may ask the victim’s doctors to evaluate it from a plastic surgery perspective. Is the scar fixable? If not, then it is a determination of the aesthetics of the scar. Where is it located? Is it something they’ll grow out of – that is, is it something that will be less noticeable when they’re older?
Pain and Suffering Damages
Often with dog bites, especially when the victim is a child, the victim develops a newfound, extreme fear of dogs.
When a child is excessively afraid of dogs, it can have an impact upon the whole family. It limits where the family can go, people they can visit and activities they can participate in. Some children even get to the point where they won’t go to the parks, they won’t walk down the street.
Sometimes you need to consider damages in terms of future counseling for traumatized victims, particularly kids who are in some way incapacitated by their fear of dogs.
Other Damages Available in a Dog Bite Case
Another type of damages we see often are when the victim needs to get a rabies shot because the dog is not up to date with its vaccinations. For many victims, we try to recover for the anxiety of not knowing whether they are going to come down with rabies, as well as anticipation of the pain of the rabies shot itself.
Those sort of anxieties are definitely a part of the suffering that comes along with a dog bite.
Can you imagine a scenario where you’d pursue punitive damages?
Yes, I’ve made claims for punitive damages in dog bite cases. When a dog owner has been aware that their dog is vicious and has bitten before, yet they still do not safely harbor that dog, we will certainly pursue punitive damages in addition to other damages.
In Wisconsin, once a dog has bitten a human sufficient to leave a scar, if it’s happened before, then all damages are doubled automatically after the verdict. That’s why we are so diligent in determining whether the dog has bitten before, who was bitten and what the outcome of that earlier bite had been.
Does the homeowner’s insurance cover punitive damages?
Usually not. Rarely, if ever, will an insurance policy cover an intentional act. The most common situation is simply people who act in disregard to the rights of the other, and the claim is in punitive damages.