Dog Bite Settlement Amounts for California and Nationwide

What is the Average Dog Bite Settlement Amount?

What is your dog bite case worth? The quick answer is that it depends. The extent of dog bite injuries, pain and suffering, and medical expenses directly affect the amount of compensation the individual victim receives. That said, there are some statistics that shed light on the average dog bite settlement.

dog bite settlement amounts

The Insurance Information Institute (III), which tracks insurer payouts such as State Farm, noted that in 2023, the average cost per claim was $58,545. Overall, polled insurers paid out a total of $1,116 million for related claims. In California, which leads the nation in dog bite claims, the average cost per claim was $68,125.

Therefore, it is fair to say that the typical injury claim settlement range could be between $10,000 and $100,000. Of course, there are numerous variables that make your claim unique. Remember that averages are just that – mathematical models that cover a spectrum of settlements.

Dog Bite Settlements & Examples: What is Your Unique Claim Worth Today?

We have already discussed how the unique circumstances of your case inform the final settlement amount. Law firms have their own statistics showing the settlement amounts they win for their clients. Even so, some anecdotal cases illustrate this point.

  1. Example 1: $100,000. A client received a bite wound after being attacked by an illegally owned canine.
  2. Example 2: $225,000 to $300,000. A client required hospitalization after an attack through a fence. The other client was attacked at the door.
  3. Example 3: $350,000. The client suffered multiple injuries after enduring an attack by a leashed canine.

Another way to look at the possible settlement option is to use Dunbar’s Bite Scale. It identifies human-canine interactions in six levels. Level one is the pre-bite stage, where no physical contact takes place. From there, it escalates. Examples include bite marks, bite marks with skin punctures, bites with skin tears, several bites with deep wounds, and ripping flesh (level six).

Top Five Factors Affecting Your Settlement Amounts

We keep talking about facts and factors affecting your unique injury. Here is what it means.

Severity of Physical and Emotional Injuries

Severe scarring, bone fractures, and permanent nerve damage are physical results of a dog bite’s aftermath. The more severe the injuries, the higher the medical costs and subsequent settlements. Moreover, children or teens dealing with disfigurement will have potential emotional injuries that factor into a settlement cost.

Dog Bite Laws Governing Owner Liability, Negligence, and Your Comparative Negligence

Did the dog’s owner know that the pet is a loose cannon? Have there been dog bite allegations against the animal before? Did the owner disregard leash laws? What matters here is how the dog owner’s actions lead to the attack. However, there is also comparative negligence. Did you do something to aggravate the situation? Examples include trespassing or taunting a dog.

Measurable Financial Losses

If you missed work because of the dog bite injury, you incurred lost wages. If this led to a missed opportunity, such as a promotion, you have additional claims. Other measurable financial losses are the costs you have to bear to undergo medical and potentially psychological treatment. Initially, you may need emergency care to assess and clean the wound.

Stitches will likely be needed for deep lacerations. If the bite is severe, surgical intervention may be needed to repair damaged tissues, including tendons or muscles. The subsequent costs of your emergency medical care may continue to rise.

Infection control is crucial, so you’ll likely need antibiotics. Depending on the bite’s severity and the dog’s vaccination status, you may also need a tetanus shot and/or rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), each adding to the medical expenses. Add the potential for follow-up visits, complications, and physical therapy, and you are scratching the surface of the potential financial impact a dog bite injury has.

Insurance Coverage and Legal Representation

The homeowner’s insurance policy governs payouts. However, there are different limits that may set the tone for initial negotiations and settlement offers. Most importantly, your choice of legal representation versus representing yourself plays a significant role in reaching a maximum settlement amount. California insurers are known for low-ball offers that could take advantage of dog bite victims who try to negotiate settlements on their own.

Long-Term Consequences

Finally, there are long-term consequences that will take place months or years from the date of settlement. Examples include lifelong disabilities, the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and plastic surgeries – particularly for minors. They, too, impact the settlement negotiations and influence the final amount.

How Pain and Suffering Factor into a Dog Bite Settlement

Suffering after a dog bite results in physical pain and emotional suffering. Physically, you may deal with puncture wounds, lacerations, and fractures. This pain is exacerbated by the risk of infection, which is common in dog bites because of bacteria in the dog’s mouth. As a result, you endure medical treatments, including wound cleaning, rounds of antibiotics, and possibly surgery.

All these add to the physical pain of the bite itself. That said, a dog bite may also lead to significant emotional suffering. You might experience anxiety, fear, and stress, particularly if the attack was severe or unexpected. The psychological impact is often long-lasting, resulting in a fear of dogs or even a reluctance to go outside.

This type of emotional suffering significantly affects the quality of life. Children, in particular, may suffer lasting trauma and require psychological support to overcome their fears. Additionally, the burden of medical expenses compounds emotional distress. These considerations must inform your dob bite case settlement.

Let’s Look at the Key Legal Considerations

  • Statute of limitations. You have a limited amount of time in which you can file a claim for a dog bite injury. California Civil Code 335.1 established this to be two years from the date of the bite.
  • Strict liability statute. The dog’s owner is financially liable for the damage the animal does. Even if the dog is one of the “but he never bites anybody” pets. It takes away the owner’s legal defense that they could not have known about the potential for danger, which factors into the settlement negotiations.
  • We have previously addressed contributory liability. Dog owners, and their insurance companies, may have defenses against your claim if you were trespassing at the time of the dog bite, you provoked the animal, or you were hurt on the job by your boss’ dog. It takes skilled legal representation to navigate these defenses and negotiate a maximum settlement.
  • Criminal penalties. California Penal Code § 399 explains the possibility of criminal charges against the dog owner. It treats death resulting from a dog attack as a felony if the person having control of the animal knows that it has problems. In the case of injuries, the person having control may face a misdemeanor or a felony. The victim or their heirs can still file a civil case.
  • Case length. Settling a dog bite case does not happen overnight. However, it will go a lot faster if you file the appropriate legal documents in a timely fashion.
  • Settlement vs. trial. A settlement happens out of court. All parties agree to the compensation for the dog bite injury. A trial may be necessary if the insurance company continues to low-ball you. It has happened that dog bite victims with legal representation from a personal injury attorney settled their case while waiting at the courthouse to be called.

Dog Bite Victims Benefit from Legal Assistance

You could go it alone. But why? A dog bite attorney understands the intricacies of building a persuasive personal injury case that will likely result in a settlement out of court. And, if the dog bite is sufficiently serious for you to consider legal action, you want to focus on healing, not dealing with an insurance company. A dog bite lawyer routinely offers clients a free consultation so you can explore your rights.

At that time, you are encouraged to bring along the evidence that you have. Examples include medical records and medical bills, photos of the injury, police reports, and employment records that show your lost wages. Lawyers will be able to take these details and add eyewitness testimony, expert testimony, and a detailed analysis of applicable insurance policies. Having an attorney-client relationship has the potential to make a significant impact on your settlement negotiations.

Do not hesitate to make an appointment today!