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Dog on a leash barking at a person's leg


Paul Benson Nov. 30, 2020

An analysis of homeowner insurance data carried out in 2019 by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) found that the average cost paid out for a dog bite claim was $44,760 and rising annually. In 2019 alone, the number of dog bite claims rose almost three percent on an annual basis to 17,802.

Like most other states, Wisconsin has a dog bite statute that makes owners of their pets liable for bites, injuries, and other damages that their dog inflicts. In fact, the provision is really a “dog damage” law rather than just a bite law.

Unlike some other states and municipalities, Wisconsin does not allow a “one-bite” exemption — eliminating liability for the first incident. Every incident is subject to monetary penalties as well as full liability for the damage caused by the dog.

If you’ve been the victim of a dog bite, or any property damage caused by a dog in Janesville, Rock County, or Beloit, Wisconsin, contact The Paul Benson Law Firm today. As your personal dog bite attorney, I will review your case, carry out a thorough investigation, and work hard to accurately establish fault and liability — all with the goal of obtaining the compensation that you deserve.

What Is The Wisconsin Dog Bite Statute?

Wisconsin currently has roughly 500,000 licensed dogs in the state, meaning the potential for an attack or dog bite incident is fairly high, even though the statistics for dog bites are difficult to track given that many incidents go unreported.

As mentioned earlier, Wisconsin law does not focus solely on dog bites, but rather on any injury or damage caused by dogs. Wisconsin Statutes section 174.02 states that “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.

As mentioned, there is no “first-bite” exclusion. Every incident is eligible for prosecution, even if it is the first instance of an attack for the dog in question. In fact, in certain circumstances, double damages can be awarded. The statute states that “the owner of a dog is liable for 2 times the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property if the owner was notified or knew that the dog previously injured or caused injury to a person, domestic animal or property.

In addition to personal liability for any injury or damage caused by one’s dog, the dog owner is also susceptible to monetary penalties of $50 to $500 for the first incident and $200 to $1,000 for any subsequent incidents.

Homeowners Insurance and Premises Liability

Homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies generally can include coverage for dog bites and damages in the range of $100,000 to $300,000, but payouts are often limited to $30,000 per person and $90,000 per claim, below the average cost determined by the I.I.I. One bite and the insurance company may cancel the policy as well.

In addition, many insurers exclude up to 11 breeds of dogs, including German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls, Siberian Huskies, and many others. Also, the homeowner or renter must notify the insurance company of the presence of dogs on the premises, or coverage can be denied. Off-property incidents may also be excluded, depending on the insurer.

The Wisconsin statute is so broad that — theoretically — if a visitor to your home trips over your sleeping dog and sustains an injury, you could be held liable. Typically, this type of claim is known as a premises liability claim, another field that my law firm focuses on, but it has its conditions.

Wisconsin law states that the property owner must be shown to have been causally negligent for any injury claim to succeed. Wisconsin also uses a modified comparative negligence standard. If you do trip over a dog, you must show that you were less than 50 percent at fault in order to have a claim. And if you’re not on the property legally, there is no liability on the owner’s behalf.

Let an Experienced Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney Assist You

You may be able to collect some compensation from the dog owner’s property or renter’s insurance, but do you really want to go through that process on your own? Going it alone can be frustrating and often results in settling for less than you deserve, especially if you lack the knowledge and experience to negotiate with insurance companies.

Also, what if the dog owner has no applicable insurance? How do you determine if you’re eligible for double damages because the dog has bitten someone else before?

Regardless of your unique circumstances, it’s important that you account for the full range of liability on the dog owner’s part. This includes accounting for any past, current, and future lost income, medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, and compensation for any lingering physical pain and emotional suffering.

That’s why you need the services of an experienced personal injury attorney. Applying the law can be tricky, and collecting the compensation you deserve can be equally challenging. If you reside in Janesville, Rock County, or Beloit, Wisconsin, contact The Paul Benson Law Firm today. I will go over all your damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and individual suffering, and do my best to develop a strategy that will help you pursue the compensation you need and deserve. Call my office immediately for a free case consultation today!