Wisconsin Dog Bite Attorneys
representing victims of personal injury
Working with us on Dog Bite Cases
If you or a loved one are the victim of a dog bite, one of our attorneys can help you recover financial compensation for your injuries. The statistics are startling: 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention.* About 1,000 people each day go to the emergency room due to a dog bite. More than half of those are children. Severe injuries from dog bites is highest for children ages 5 to 9 years. Children 4 and under are most commonly bitten in the face and neck area. Older children and adults tend to suffer bites of the hands, arms and legs. Most of the biting dogs belong to the victim’s family, friends or neighbors.
Dog Bite Law in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, dog owners are strictly liable for damages or injuries caused by their animal to another animal, human being or property. That means the owner is responsible, regardless of any fault or negligence on their part. If an owner has already been notified or knew his or her dog had previously injured another person, animal or property, they may be liable for two times the amount of damages caused, also known as “double damages.”
Who Pays for the Injuries in a Wisconsin Dog Bite Lawsuit?
Generally, homeowner’s insurance policies and some renter’s insurance polices will pay the damages in dog bite cases in Wisconsin. This holds true even if the dog is not on the homeowner’s property at the time of the incident. The average amount paid for a dog bite claim in 2011 was $29,396, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
The law says the dog owner is liable, the insurance company covers the claim, and BAM — you settle the case on your own and save the expense of a lawyer, right? That could be a big mistake. Statistics show that, on average, injury claims settle for 50% more when an attorney is involved.** Handling your own dog bite claim sounds easier than it is for a number of reasons:
1. INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENSES.
Many insurance defense lawyers handling dog bite cases in Wisconsin are incorrectly convinced that a dog must have bitten someone before to create liability. This is a common defense. Other defenses are that the victim provoked the dog (which sometimes happens and it is a good defense if true), was a trespasser (which raises the bar on the claim) or that the victim was otherwise negligent or assumed the risk that the dog might bite. An Eaton Law attorney will aggressively argue against these defenses.
2. UNFAMILIARITY WITH YOUR RIGHTS
It is not uncommon for an insurance company to offer to cover all of the medical expenses incurred as a result of a dog bite. They may offer to give you a little extra for your pain and suffering, and you will feel like you got a good deal. Chances are, though, you would have received 50% more for your claim if you had an attorney.** Dog bite victims are entitled not only to payment of past medical expenses, but also future medical expenses, lost wages (past and future), and compensation for disfigurement, pain and suffering. The parents of a child bitten by a dog may also be entitled to damages of their own, as they are often indirect victims of dog bites.
3. SUBROGATION RIGHTS
If you received medical treatment as the rest of a dog bite, typically, your health insurance (or Medicare or Medicaid) pays the medical bills. If the health insurer (including Medicare or Medicaid) has paid accident-related medical bills (including bills related to a dog bite), they will almost always seek to get reimbursed from a personal injury case settlement. The health insurance company is exercising its right of “subrogation.”
This concept is not typically understood by personal injury victims. Almost always, health insurance contracts include a clause that provides for a right of subrogation. The language may differ from plan to plan, but the concept is the same: If you are injured and receive payment for your injuries from a third party, you may be required to repay your health insurer for the accident (or dog-bite) related medical bills it paid.
Injury victims’ rights can vary considerably depending upon what type of insurance plan they have. Subrogation is an issue that many personal injury victims do not consider. They are shocked when they settle their claim on their own, and are then told by their health insurance provider that they must pay the majority of the settlement amount to the insurance company. One of our experienced attorneys will handle all outstanding subrogation claims as part of handling your personal injury claim, often negotiating a substantial discount of the subrogation claim. In some instances, the subrogation claims can be wiped out altogether.