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Do I Need a Lawyer for an Ohio Dog Bite Injury?

Do I Need a Lawyer for an Ohio Dog Bite Injury? If you have been bitten by man’s best friend, you may be wondering what you did to deserve that outcome. Dogs can bring so much joy to people’s lives, but they are still animals that can act unpredictably. When dogs are not properly trained or controlled, or when they act in an uncharacteristic way, the results can be devastating. Dog bites can cause serious injuries from infection to disfigurement and amputation.

If you have suffered a dog bite, you may be wondering what legal options are available to you. We are here to help provide you with as much information as possible so that you can make the best decision with regard to your case. Although you are not legally required to hire an attorney to represent you in your dog bite matter, just as you are not legally required to take any action at all, if you have suffered physical and financial harm as a result of a dog bite, you will want a lawyer to help you recover for the physical and financial harm that you have suffered. A lawyer can help you navigate the process, negotiate a fair settlement, and keep the process as streamlined and painless as possible.

Dog Bite Injuries

Dogs have a great deal of bacteria in their mouths, so when their teeth puncture your skin, there is a significant risk of infection. This infection can cause serious illness, complications, and trauma to the skin and muscle tissue surrounding the wound. In some cases, bites to the face or ears will cause disfigurement or require reconstructive surgery. Additionally, if the bite partially severed an ear or finger, reattachment surgery or amputation may be needed. For less serious wounds, stitches may still be required to allow them to heal or to reduce or avoid scarring.

Actions to Take After a Dog Bite

  • Get the name and contact information of the dog’s owner, as well as the dog’s vaccine information.
  • Clean the wound. We mentioned above how bacteria from dog’s mouths can cause serious infection, so it is important to thoroughly clean the wound as soon as possible. Use an astringent solution, such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to disinfect the wound, as well as saline solution to flush and clean it. You can then apply pressure to slow the bleeding, apply antibiotic ointment, and put on a clean bandage or wrap until you are able to get medical attention.
  • Seek medical attention. Even dog bites that are not terribly serious can result in bad infections. A doctor will determine whether you need stitches and whether you need antibiotics, a tetanus shot, or rabies shots in order to prevent the spread of infection or the development of a disease.
  • Report the dog bite. After you are bitten by a dog, you have 24 hours to file a dog bite injury report with the health commissioner in the district in which the bite occurred.
  • Talk to a lawyer. It can be difficult to determine how to proceed after a dog bite. Depending on the circumstances, such as whether the dog has bitten anyone before, you may be able to bring a statutory claim under Ohio’s dog-bite statute, or you may have to bring a common law claim for negligence. This can be difficult for someone who is not a lawyer to decipher and navigate, particularly when they are also trying to deal with a painful injury.

Ohio Dog Bite Statute

Ohio has a dog bite statute, however, under Ohio’s dog bite statute owner’s essentially get “one bite free.” This means that Ohio dog-owners are only liable for bites caused by their dogs after their dog has already bitten someone, assuming of course that that bite has been properly reported. If the dog that bit you has a history of biting at least one other person, the owner can be held liable under the statute. You can bring a claim to recover for all economic costs incurred as a result of the injury, as well as for emotional harm and trauma such as scarring and psychological effects. If the Ohio dog bite statute does not apply because the dog that bit you does not have a history of biting others, you may still be able to bring a personal injury claim under the common law principle of negligence.

Bringing a Personal Injury Lawsuit for Dog Bites in Ohio

You have standing to bring a personal injury claim for your dog bite injury if the injury was caused by the dog-owner’s negligence and if you suffered physical harm and financial damages as a result. There are a few elements here that must be satisfied in order to bring a successful personal injury claim, so we will break them down to get a better understanding of each one.

  • You must have suffered a physical injury. If a dog bite you but it does not break the skin or require medical attention, you will not likely meet the threshold for having suffered a physical injury. Generally in order to have a physical injury sufficient to give you standing to bring a personal injury claim, you must have required medical treatment and have medical documentation to support your claim.
  • You must have financial damages. If you were bitten by a dog but it did not result in an injury that required medical care or it was easily treated at home and you did not miss work as a result, you are unlikely to have suffered any financial damages as required to bring a personal injury lawsuit. However, if you have hospital bills, doctor’s bills, bills for prescription antibiotics, or lost wages due to having to take time off to recover or for medical treatment, these can all constitute financial damages sufficient to bring a claim.
  • The dog owner must have been negligent. A dog owner may be found negligent when they breach the reasonable duty of care owed to others. They may be negligent if they violated local laws or ordinances, such as by letting their dog off of a leash, or by failing to train or restrain a dog that was known to have aggression issues. Essentially, if the owner failed to take action knowing that this kind of event could occur, they will likely be found negligent.
  • The dog owner’s negligence must have caused your injury. The element of causation must be established in order to bring a successful personal injury lawsuit. In order to succeed in bringing this element, you must show that the owner’s negligence was the direct cause of your injury. For instance, if the owner negligently let their dog off of its leash and it ran over and bit you while off leash, the negligent act directly caused your injury.

Damages for Dog-Bite Injuries in Ohio

The amount of damages that you can recover depends on the extent and severity of your injuries, the amount of your financial damages, and your method of legal recourse. If you bring a statutory claim under Ohio’s dog-bite statute, you are entitled to recover all economic expenses incurred as a result of the dog bite, as well as compensation for pain and suffering. Economic damages are generally calculable, and include things like medical bills, bills for medication or transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, and lost wages if you had to miss work as a result of your injury or for medical treatment related to your injury. Pain and suffering is meant to compensate for the physical and emotional trauma caused by the injury. This can compensate for things like trauma and psychological harm, as well as for chronic pain, scarring, disfigurement, and other physical traumas and lasting impacts.

If, on the other hand, you pursue compensation under the common law doctrine of negligence by bringing a personal injury lawsuit, you will be entitled to the same economic damages and compensation for pain and suffering, however, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. Unlike economic damages and compensation for pain and suffering, which are meant to make the dog-bite victim financially whole, punitive damages exist purely to punish the dog owner for their negligence and to act as a deterrent to keep other dog owners from acting similarly. Punitive damages are not available in all cases, but rather in exceptional circumstances. Punitive damages are appropriate where the dog owner was so negligent or reckless as to make their conduct egregious or malicious. In awarding these damages, the court may consider whether the dog owner acted with reckless disregard for the well-being of others such that this kind of harm was likely to occur. If punitive damages are awarded, they often extend into the millions. However, Ohio caps the amount of punitive damages that a plaintiff can recover at $350,000, so even if you are awarded $3 million in punitive damages, you will still only be able to recover $350,000.

How a Lawyer Can Help

If you have made it this far in the post, you can likely tell that determining how to get compensation for your dog-bite injury is far from a straightforward process. A lawyer can review the facts of your case in order to determine how best to move forward and what legal statutes or laws would be most advantageous based on your specific circumstances.

If the dog owner in question has a homeowners policy, it may cover your injury. If this is the case, you will likely be contacted very shortly after the dog bite accident by a claims adjuster from the dog owners’ homeowners’ insurance company seeking more information on the incident, where it occurred, and the extent of your injuries.

It is common for people to make missteps in these phone calls because many people don’t realize that while the claims adjuster does need some information to process the claim, the vast majority of interactions with them are designed to obtain information that can be used to deny or limit your coverage. It is important to remember that the insurance claims adjuster works for the insurance company, so they have a vested interest in settling your claim for as little as possible. Insurance claims adjusters also do this every day, whereas you likely have not experienced a severe dog bite more than once. For this reason, they have far more experience with soliciting the information that they need to limit coverage than you do looking out for these stealthy and calculated maneuvers.

Hiring an attorney can help level the playing field. Your attorney can take over negotiations with the homeowners’ insurance claims agent and ensure that you avoid all of these common pitfalls. A lawyer will also help make sure that you have an accurate idea of what your total financial damages will be, which includes having a clear understanding of the full extent of your medical condition and the treatment that will be required. If your attorney is unable to get the insurance company to offer a fair settlement, they can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the insurance company to ensure that you get the settlement that you deserve.

It is also helpful to remember that you really do not know what a fair settlement is. The insurance company may offer you a large number that sounds good, but without an attorney who negotiates these deals for a living, you may not even realize that it is a fraction of what a fair settlement would actually be. This is especially true because settlement information is often kept confidential and is not easily available, so it can be hard to get a clear sense of what is fair. Many people also do not realize that they should be factoring anticipated future expenses into their settlement calculation if they have an injury that will require ongoing treatment, beyond when the settlement will be concluded.

Contact Kruger & Hodges Attorneys at Law

If you have suffered physical and financial damages as a result of a dog bite injury in the City of Hamilton or Butler County, Ohio, the experienced personal injury and dog bite attorneys at Kruger & Hodges Attorneys at Law will determine the best course of legal action and will fight to get you the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to. Contact Kruger & Hodges Attorneys at Law today to schedule your personalized consultation.

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