Apart from protecting homes and property against damage or theft, a homeowners insurance policy covers personal liability for hurting others. So, if you're a dog bite victim on private property, you can get monetary damages for your hurt. If the pet owner doesn't have any insurance, you may institute a dog bite lawsuit against them. In either case, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help you fight for justice.
That's because the homeowner's insurance company wouldn't offer you compensatory damages merely for making a claim. You must support your claims with crucial evidence to receive any award of damages. In dog bite lawsuits, you must provide superior arguments to the legal defenses the homeowner's lawyer puts up.
So, it is not in every case that injury victims get monetary damages for animal attacks. As such, you must assess your dog bite claim and chances of potential damages before attempting a lawsuit. If you don't, you may end up wasting your finances on a lawsuit without any reward. We'll try to help you figure out the right time to take legal action for your dog bite injuries in this article.
Understanding Ohio's Dog Bite Laws
According to a Dog Bite Prevention report, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. Furthermore, the majority of dog bite victims are children. As such, there's the need for dog bite laws to regulate the activities of dogs and their owners in America.
To that end, Columbus, Ohio State has the following dog bite laws:
- Strict Liability and the One-Bite Rule
The "one-bite" rule in Columbus imposes strict liability on dog owners who know of their pets' dangerous propensities. To hold a dog owner liable under this rule, you must prove that the dog has previously bitten someone. You must also prove that the dog owner was aware of the previous bite. Under the strict liability rule, you don't need to prove the dog owner's fault. You only need to show that their dog attacked you.
- The Common Law Negligence Theory
If you don't have a good case under the one-bite rule, you may consider the law of negligence. It's a common-law action that you can take when the dog owner's careless behavior leads to your dog bite injuries.
To prove the animal owners' negligence, you must establish they did not take reasonable care. You must also prove that the responsible party's breach of the duty of care caused your dog bite injury.
- Dangerous Dogs and Dog Bite Quarantine
Ohio places responsibility on dog owners to quarantine their dogs for a minimum of ten days. This is to allow for rabies observation. If the dog that attacked you has rabies, you'll be treated for the disease immediately. Ohio's laws also mandate any dog that has bitten or attacked someone must be registered as a dangerous dog.
- Reporting Dog Bites
As a dog bite victim in Columbus, you must file a report within 24 hours of the attack. The report will trigger an investigation that may be useful in your personal injury claim or lawsuit.
When Should I Initiate a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Dog Bite?
It might be a good idea to seek professional guidance from an experienced lawyer to determine your cause of action after a dog bite. Dog bite injury lawsuits will provide you with avenues for larger settlements. Unlike insurance claims, a civil lawsuit may award you punitive damages alongside compensation for economic and non-economic damages. However, depending on your cases' specifics, an injury claim with an insurance company may be more suitable for you.
Generally, though, your personal injury attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit in the following situations:
- When You've Suffered Severe Injuries From the Dog Bite
Dog bites can cause excruciating physical pain and debilitating injuries. Sometimes, dog bite victims suffer hand and limb nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy that lasts for years. In some cases, you may need reconstructive surgery as a wound care technique to restore your body after the bite.
Receiving medical care for severe dog bite injuries can be extremely expensive. If the responsible party doesn't have liability coverage for your injuries, you may have to file a lawsuit against them.
- When There Are Psychological Damages
Sometimes, you may be lucky enough to survive an attack with a minor dog bite injury. However, such attacks may cause permanent scarring even after receiving medical attention. In such cases, you may lose your self-esteem and slide into depression.
At other times, you may get psychological and emotional trauma and develop PTSD. Unfortunately, not many insurance companies are ready to pay compensation for your emotional distress and mental anguish. In such cases, a lawsuit may be the only option to recover non-economic damages.
- If You Can't Reach Reasonable Settlement
Attorneys of insurance companies will always try to oppose your claim once you file it. They'll look for loopholes to exploit in your case to deny you compensation. If they don't find any loophole, they'll propose meager settlement amounts, hoping that you'll accept them.
This will usually lead to a series of settlement negotiations. Sometimes, the insurance companies may delay the settlement negotiations until the statute of limitations expires. In such cases, you can file a lawsuit to avoid losing your chances of maximum compensation.
When Is It a Bad Idea To Commence a Civil Lawsuit Against a Dog Owner?
Sometimes, after sustaining injuries in a dog bite incident, it's best to count your losses and move on. That's because filing a claim in such cases can expose evidence that puts you at risk of criminal charges. In those scenarios, even if you don't get a criminal charge, you wouldn't be able to get compensation either.
Those cases include the following:
- When You're a Trespasser
Ohio's bite rule doesn't protect trespassers. A trespasser is someone without any legal authority to be on a property. If you have no legal reason to be on the property during the attack, you have no claim.
In addition to not getting any legal remedies, trespassing is a criminal offense in Ohio State. As a misdemeanor, you may be prosecuted for criminal trespass. However, this rule does not apply to children and public trespassers like a door-to-door salesman.
- If You Provoked the Dog
Like humans, dogs may defend themselves when they perceive any threat to them. So if you abuse, torment, or tease a dog, they may attack you in reaction to such provocation. In such cases, you may not be entitled to any damages because you were at fault.
While the law places a duty of care on the animal owner, everyone must also care for their safety. As an adult, you must know that dogs have aggressive tendencies. You must be sure not to provoke such vicious tendencies.
- When There's Criminal Intent
If you were committing a crime when the homeowner's dog bit you, you aren't eligible for compensation. It's the same thing for when you were on the premises with criminal intent. That's because the law wouldn't be used as an avenue to reward illegality.
What's the Statute of Limitations for a Dog Bite Injury Claim?
After determining your eligibility for a dog bite injury lawsuit, it's best to file your claim within the stipulated time frame. This period of time within which you must file your lawsuit is called the statute of limitations. Every state has its statute of limitations. If you don't file your claim within the given time limit, you may lose compensatory damages.
For Ohio State, you must file your strict liability lawsuit within six years from the date of injury. If you were a child at the time of the accident, the six years start counting from your 18th birthday. If you're bringing your lawsuit under common law negligence, you have two years from the date of injury.
Contact an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer in Columbus, Ohio Now!
There are many factors you must consider before you file an insurance claim or lawsuit for an Ohio bite attack. Even if you have a good injury case, you'll still need to consider Ohio's statute of limitations. There are also numerous dog bite laws you must factor in when you want to sue for animal attacks. It's a lot, and that's where an experienced attorney might be able to help. They can help you navigate the bottlenecks.
Our dog bite injury lawyers at Babin Law want you to get justice for your physical injuries. We understand that you may be going through psychological trauma due to the attack. As such, we try to ensure that we wouldn't make your dog bite settlement process any more difficult than it has to be.
Our lawyers understand the nitty-gritty of Ohio's dog bite laws as well as the tricks the insurance adjuster may pull. So, put your mind at ease and schedule a free case review with our experienced lawyers now.