Do Dog Bite Injury Victims Always Receive Settlements?
Not always. Ohio law is extremely complex in this area. Additionally, as outlined below, insurance company lawyers often invoke one or more defenses. If successful, these defenses could reduce, or even eliminate, compensation. The medical bills alone in a serious dog bite case usually exceed $50,000. So, without compensation, the victim could be left holding a very large financial bag.
For this reason, a Columbus personal injury attorney has three primary responsibilities in a dog bite or other injury claim. An attorney must arrange for medical treatment. Many accident victims don’t have insurance or money. Next, lawyers build claims for compensation. Finally, lawyers must anticipate and refute insurance company defenses.
Lack of Evidence
Frequently, a dog bite claim is a single-witness claim. The victim was the only witness to the animal attack. Usually, the victim’s testimony alone is sufficient to prove key negligence facts in an animal attack case. The burden of proof (a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not) is very low in civil claims.
However, that’s not always the case. Head injuries frequently affect memory and recall. Furthermore, some victims have adverse relationships with some owners, so their credibility is questionable, at least in the eyes of some jurors.
In these situations, the res ipsa loquitur doctrine often saves a case from a lack of evidence defense. This legal principle, which is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself,” allows jurors to presume that negligence caused an injury, in some situations.
Ohio’s res ipsa loquitur rule is quite broad. So, it nearly always applies in single-witness dog bite claims.
Assumption of the Risk
This defense usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other warning sign. Posting a sign is not an absolute defense to a dog bite claim. In fact, it’s not even close.
First, an insurance company lawyer must prove the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what the sign meant. These latter two elements are especially difficult to establish if, as is usually the case, the victim was a small child.
Next, the jury must divide responsibility on a percentage basis. For example, jurors may conclude that the owner was partially responsible for keeping a dangerous dog in a semi-open area, and the victim was partially responsible for ignoring a warning sign.
Ohio is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent threshold. Victims are eligible for compensation if they were no more than 49 percent responsible for the incident.
A few dog bite cases involve written waivers. These assumption of the risk cases work a little differently under Ohio law.
The provocation defense is like the comparative fault defense on steroids. Owners aren’t responsible for dog bite damages, even in strict liability claims, if the victim provoked the dog.
Provocation has a very narrow meaning in this context. First, provocation is intentional. People cannot “accidentally” provoke dogs by moving fast or making a loud noise. Second, provocation is a physical act. In fact, according to Ohio law, provoking a dog is almost like torturing a dog.
Additionally, as a matter of law, young children cannot provoke animals in the Buckeye State. As mentioned, young children are often the victims of dog bite attacks.
Reach Out to a Compassionate Franklin County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Columbus, contact the Oliver Law Office. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.