Should I Sue My Friend or Neighbor for a Dog Bite?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.5 million Americans suffer dog bites every year, or 1 in every 73 persons. Of those bitten, at least 800,000 require medical care. Many, especially children, experience long-term pain and suffering as a result.

If you or your loved one suffers a bite by a neighbor or friend’s dog, you may be entitled to compensation for injuries. Often, people are hesitant to take action when they have a personal relationship with the dog’s owner. However, the claim will be with the insurance company and not necessarily the person themself. 

The Paul Benson Law Firm has been representing clients in personal injury cases for years. I have an in-depth understanding of personal injury laws specific to Wisconsin and can explain your options and your right to fair compensation. Contact me for a free case assessment. I proudly serve clients in Janesville and Beloit, Wisconsin as well as the surrounding communities.

Premises Liability Law and Your Rights

Homeowners and renters are required to carry insurance that covers premises liability – the potential for injury caused by unsafe conditions or negligence on one’s property. This can involve several types of potential accidents. Preventing a dog from attacking or biting others who may be on or just near the premises is a requirement, and insurance carriers generally will cover personal injury expenses caused by the policyholder’s pet.

Wisconsin Dog Bite Law

Wisconsin law (Wisconsin Statute Section 174.02) is clear on the matter of dog bites, stating “the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property.” Civil fines for a first offense range from $50 to $2,500, in addition to personal injury liability.

If the owner had been previously notified that the dog had, without provocation, bitten a person with enough force to break the skin and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement, then the owner may be “liable for 2 times the full amount of damages.”  

A court may also order the euthanization of a dog if it “caused serious injury to a person or domestic animal on 2 separate occasions off the owner's property, without reasonable cause” and that prior to the second injury, the owner of the dog was notified or knew that the dog caused the first injury.

Possible Damages

Wisconsin follows a comparative negligence rule meaning that if the victim was in some way partially responsible for the bite, then the damages that they are able to recover may be affected. For example, if they provoked the dog or stuck their hand through a fence to pet the dog then it may be determined that they were 20% responsible for the bite. Therefore, if compensation was awarded at $10,000, a victim who was 20% responsible would only receive $8,000 under a comparative negligence rule.

Though some bites barely go beyond surface wounds, in the most extreme cases serious bodily injury may occur, which can lead to lasting effects. Such injuries include the potential for loss of life, substantial risk of permanent disfigurement, substantial risk of loss or impairment of a bodily function or organ, and broken bones and fractures.

Depending on the seriousness of injuries resulting from an animal attack and the nature of the attack, you may be entitled to recover medical expenses, lost wages, compensation for pain and suffering, property damage, punitive damages, and emotional distress.

What to Do if Bitten

If you or your loved one suffers a dog attack, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. A dog’s mouth invites all kinds of germs and other physically harmful substances that can lead to an infection. The staff should also check for rabies. After leaving the emergency room, follow the doctor’s instructions and make sure to obtain a copy of the doctor’s report. In many cases, medical staff will also take pictures of your injuries for the record. If they don’t, have someone do it for you. Finally, hire a personal injury attorney to guide you through the claims or litigation process. 

Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Janesville, Wisconsin

At the Paul Benson Law Firm, I will always personally take the lead on your case. Anytime you have a question, I’ll walk you through the answer and explain your options. I’ll also provide consistent updates about your case and will help you fight for fair compensation. I am proud to serve victims of personal injury accidents throughout Janesville, Beloit, and Rock County, Wisconsin. Call now to schedule a free case assessment with an experienced Wisconsin personal injury attorney.


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