Frequently Asked Questions

There are good reasons to take action if you are bitten by a dog or if your dog was attacked by another dog.

Reasons to report the incident to Animal Control

  • Animal control needs to know. They can’t fix a situation that they don’t know is broken.
  • The dog owner needs a reality check. He likes to think that his dog is an asset. He needs to learn it is a danger and a liability.
  • The dog might need confining. The dog owner might be ordered to muzzle it, keep it in a pen, take it out of the jurisdiction, or put it down.

Reasons to make an insurance claim

  • Medical bills that are piling up.
  • Medical bills for future treatment. Remember, your health insurance is not going to cover cosmetic treatment. Why should you have to pay for this out of your own pocket?
  • Loss of income.
  • Loss of future earning capacity, if the victim ends up with a disability or a bad scar on the face.
  • Pain. Even if your bills are paid, how is a settlement fair if the victim isn’t compensated for all the pain?
  • Suffering. This refers to mental suffering, anxiety about being around dogs, humiliation at being scarred.
  • Doing something about that dog. If the dog that bit you is vicious, the dog owner’s insurance company might put pressure on the dog owners to get rid of it.

Reasons an attorney will represent you better than you can

  • Settle for a fair and adequate amount of money. Asking an insurance company for money is, well, just asking. Demanding what’s fair is something that an attorney can do, because only an attorney can file a lawsuit.
  • Reduce the medical bills and health insurance liens. Yes, your health insurance and doctors are going to claim part of the settlement, so you need a lawyer to deal with them.
  • Invest the “parked” money so it is safe and tax free. When the victim is a child, you need to plan ahead. Do you really think it will help him, or her, to receive tens of thousands of dollars the day of turning 18 years of age? With a lawyer, there will be a tax-sheltered annuity which will dole out the necessary money at a schedule that you yourself will set.
  • Represent the family at the confirmation hearing. When a child is injured, there is no settlement without a confirmation hearing at court. It doesn’t matter whether you get a lawyer or not: there still will be this hearing (but don’t worry: the dog owners are not invited to it). Now, you either will be represented at this hearing, or only the insurance company will be represented. In other words, either you will know what is going to happen to your child’s money, or you will be leaving it in the hands of the lawyer for the dog owners. The choice is obvious.
  • Take the pressure off you. Why should you have to research everything, read laws, fight the insurance adjuster, fight the insurance company’s attorney, etc.? You might say the wrong thing and hurt the case. Why not just concentrate on healing and let someone else handle the claim? Especially because it’s done on a contingency fee basis — in other words, at no up-front cost to you.
  • Eliminate any questions or resentments in the future.
  • Advance all of the costs of proving the loss. It takes money to put together evidence that an insurance company will accept. Why spend it when the attorney is willing to advance it?

If you were bitten by a dog

  • Chat with Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips. It’s done by email to protect your privacy. Hit “Contact” above. Tell him about your dog bite and he will discuss your options without charging you anything.

If you are a lawyer and need solutions for your dog bite case

  • Tell Attorney Phillips about your case and he will suggest solutions. Send him an email message (hit “Contact” above).
  • Get a set of the Dog Bite Lawsuit Forms that he uses for dog bite cases all over the USA.
  • Watch Tips & Tricks for Dog Bite Lawyers to learn Mr. Phillips’ strategies and tactics for plaintiffs’ lawyers.

If your dog was injured or killed

If you are a dog professional

15 Reasons Why Kids and Adults Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Case

  1. Insurance companies usually pay very little. Out of 4.7 million Americans bitten each year, insurance only pays about 15,000 to 17,000. Without a lawyer, victims have less than a 1% chance of getting compensated.
  2. Victims without lawyers get lower offers. Insurance adjusters often offer victims without lawyers only 10% to 20% of what they would offer to a lawyer, keeping 80% to 90% of the potential payout.
  3. Dog bite law is complex. It involves state laws, local ordinances, and court cases. Legal terms like negligence and comparative negligence make it complicated.
  4. Lawyers know the right compensation amounts. They base this on payouts to similar victims over the past decade, information not easily found by the public.
  5. No upfront costs with lawyers. Lawyers on contingency fees don’t charge upfront. The initial consultation is free, and you only pay if you win.
  6. The dog owner isn’t financially hurt. Homeowner or renter insurance covers the claim, so the dog owner doesn’t pay out of pocket.
  7. Lawyers handle owners delicately. They won’t harass or threaten the dog owners, or make them feel guilty.
  8. Lawyers can settle without court. Good lawyers know how to negotiate with insurance companies to avoid court.
  9. Lawyers cover evidence costs. They spend their own money to gather evidence, which can cost $1,000 to $2,000.
  10. Lawyers secure the right settlement amount. They handle claims from health insurers and negotiate bills to maximize your payout.
  11. Early legal help is beneficial. A lawyer involved early can influence the insurance company’s offer, making settlement easier.
  12. Having a lawyer doesn’t slow the process. Resolution depends on your recovery, not legal representation.
  13. Child settlements need protection. A lawyer ensures that a child’s settlement is properly managed and invested.
  14. Court approval for child settlements. If the victim is a child, a lawyer will help manage the court review of the settlement.
  15. Claims for parents too. Lawyers also help parents claim compensation related to their child’s injury.

Worries About Hiring a Lawyer:

  1. It Might Ruin Friendships: Some people worry that getting a lawyer could make things awkward with neighbors or friends. But a good lawyer handles things quietly and goes after insurance. They do not blame anyone directly or ask for money from them. If there isn’t insurance, your lawyer will tell you your options before taking further action.
  2. What About the Dog? Many are scared the lawyer might want the dog put down. But you could tell your lawyer not to go in that direction. It’s your case and your attorney has to do what you ask.
  3. Will It Cost Too Much? People often think lawyers will take most of the money. Without a lawyer, the insurance company might keep 80-90% of the money a good lawyer could get you. Your lawyer will take far less, 25-33% if there’s no court case, 40% if there’s a lawsuit. That means more money for the victim.
  4. Paying the Lawyer: Paying a lawyer sounds scary. But attorneys who do dog bite cases don’t ask for money upfront. They get paid only when you get your money at the end.

More Information: If you want to know more and you’re an adult, check out Does an Adult Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Claim?. If your child was bitten, read For Parents of Dog Bite Victims. It has stories from parents who have been through this.

Memo from Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips: Understanding How I Differ from Other Dog Bite Lawyers

What Makes Me Unique? “I am the only lawyer in the USA focused solely on representing victims of dog bites. My whole practice is dedicated to this. I am also known as the top legal expert in dog bite law nationally. Check out what the media say about me at Meet Kenneth M. Phillips. My work isn’t just about making money. I help write dog bite laws and have traveled across the country at my own expense to push for better laws and teach better practices to lawyers and dog professionals. I’ve been sharing information about dog bites the longest. You can see on the Internet Wayback Machine that my website, www.dogbitelaw.com, has been up since the 1990s, because I was the first full-time dog bite lawyer in the USA.”

Am I Too Busy for New Cases? “I often hear concerns about my availability, but I assure you that I have the time! I give personal attention to each case and only take new ones when I can fully commit. I make it clear to prospective clients right away whether I can handle their case, so they’re not left wondering.”

Hard to Contact? “Not at all. If you contact me, you’ll get a response from me personally within 24 hours, not from an assistant or a ghostwriter. And I’m always ready to talk to my clients over the phone whenever they need.”

Do I Handle Too Many Cases? “Not true! I take on a manageable number of cases, focusing on those where the injuries are to the face, or cause disabilities, or were fatal. This keeps my caseload light.”

Is a Facial Cut Too Minor for My Attention? “Absolutely not. People often underestimate the impact of a facial injury, but just about all of them are serious enough for my involvement.”

Am I Expensive? “I charge the same as other lawyers who work on a contingency fee basis. This means I take a minor portion of the money that a case brings in. I don’t ask for any payment upfront, I cover all case costs initially, and I get a judge’s approval to charge anything when the victim is a child. In states where I work alongside a local attorney, we split the fee, so you get two lawyers for the price of one.”

Do I Delegate to Junior Associates? “No, I don’t. I don’t have junior associates. I personally handle all my cases, using a local lawyer only when necessary.”

one bite states

One-bite states use an old English rule to decide who is legally responsible when a domestic animal, like a dog, harms a person, property, or another animal.

Only a few American states still use the one-bite rule. For a visual representation of these states, see the diagram to the right of this paragraph.

For details about the one-bite rule, check out The One Bite Rule here on Dog Bite Law.

flag gavel

The Problem A Dog Bite Victim Faces in a One-Bite State

“My son was bitten in a one bite state,” the message began. “I contacted the homeowner’s insurance company of the dog owner. They told me there is a ‘first free bite’ rule, and said they will not pay anything over $1,000.

“Is there nothing that I can do?”

Legal Options in One Bite States

In a one-bite state, the victim must show evidence of at least one of these legal “causes of action”:

The One Bite Rule:

You need to prove two things:

  • The dog had shown aggressive behavior towards people before.
  • The dog’s owner knew about this aggressive behavior.

Negligence per Se:

You must demonstrate that the dog owner broke a specific animal control law at the time of the incident. You need to:

  • Identify a local or state law that required the dog to be restrained or controlled. Examples are leash requirements, restrictions on dogs roaming freely, and rules against dogs being on someone else’s private property without permission. A less common example is a prior order by the animal control authorities to specifically restrain or control the dog.
  • Show evidence that the dog owner did not follow this law at the time of the incident.

Negligence:

This can involve anyone whose unreasonable actions helped cause the accident. Negligence cases are allowed in every state except New York.

Further Reading

For more details, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA and be sure to read Should Parents Get a Lawyer for Their Injured Child?

It’s tough to appeal a dog bite case. There are two different kinds of appeals. There is an appeal from a “dangerous dog hearing,” by a “dog court” judge. The other is an appeal from a civil lawsuit. Either way, you have to have legal grounds.

Mr. Phillips’ book, “Defending Your Dog – Win Your Case in Dog Court,” tells how to appeal from a “dangerous dog hearing.” It’s the only practical, reasonably priced solution. It’s available instantly from the Dog Bite Law Store.

The appeal of a civil trial is far more complicated and expensive. The grounds for appeal are very technical so a lawyer has to review the the trial transcript and the evidence. It takes days or weeks to do this, and costs many thousands of dollars because lawyers charge by the hour.

If the lawyer finds grounds for appeal, the costs grow higher because you have to go through the appeal process. Briefs have to be written, there often is a hearing by the appellate judges, and then you have to wait for them to make a written decision. Unfortunately, this part of the process usually costs tens of thousands of dollars in addition to what you already paid.

In the end, it might not be worth it to appeal a civil judgment. Most appeals fail and the loser usually has to pay the other party’s costs. Even if you win, the appellate court might just order a new trial, which means more expenses.

The bottom line is this. Appealing a decision made in “dog court” can be done efficiently, as described in Mr. Phillips’ book. Appealing a judgment from a civil court, however, takes years, it’s expensive, and you’ll probably lose. That’s why appealing a civil dog bite case isn’t practical. But sometimes you have to take the risk.

Dog bite law is a combination of city laws, county laws, state statutes, and state cases. You have to research all four areas.

For city law, do one or more of the following:

  • On the Internet, do a search for “Municipal code of [your city].” In the table of contents, find the chapter called “Animals” (it might be in “Health & Safety”).
  • If you are involved in a court case, contact your city clerk and ask for a “certified copy” of the laws that you found.

For county law, follow the same instructions but search the “County code of [your county]” and contact the county clerk instead of the city clerk.

For state statutes and cases, read Mr. Phillips brief about your state law at Civil Liability here on Dog Bite Law (dogbitelaw.com).

You can’t solve the dog bite problem alone. It’s a social issue requiring support from others to change laws and policies.

For guidance, read Civics for Democracy by Katherine Isaac. It’s a fantastic resource for anyone aiming to change laws at any level of government.

To connect with others who share your goals, join the Dog Bite Law Group on Facebook. You’ll find motivated individuals discussing ways to enact new, fair laws. Together, you can make a difference.

Attorney Phillips has seen how a small group can influence lawmakers to introduce new laws. Learn how it’s done in Civics for Democracy and use the Dog Bite Law Group on Facebook as your starting point.

You Have Valid Concerns: You are right to worry. Not only are your children at risk, but if they are seen as “residents” of your ex’s home, they can’t claim under the homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.

Steps to Take: You need to talk to your divorce lawyer. Together, you might think about changing the custody order. This could help.

Getting Expert Advice: Your divorce lawyer can also talk to an animal behavior expert or a lawyer who knows about dog bites. They can help show that the dog is dangerous and the other parent is violating the law.

The time you have to start a dog bite case can range from a few months to a few years. It varies based on who was hurt, where it happened, and who is legally responsible. For more info, check out Beware of the Statute of Limitations.

The point of this time limit is to eventually let things go. Once time’s up, you can’t ask for money or sue, unless you’ve already settled or sued.

Each state has different laws and court rulings that can change how long you have. If you’ve been bitten, it’s smart to talk to a lawyer right away. The top dog bite lawyer in the US is Kenneth M. Phillips. You can get in touch with him by clicking Contact in the menu.

Many think going to court will bring justice, wanting everyone to see what happened. But in reality, the legal system simply gives money as compensation. It won’t undo the injury. It can’t take away the pain. Trial lawyers who are experienced and honest will tell you that your day in court will take years, be exhausting, and eat a big chunk of your accident money.

Why Settling Can Be Smarter:

Settling usually means getting compensated quicker and with less hassle. You avoid long trials and high costs. Lawyers, especially those like Kenneth M. Phillips, can explain how intricate proving your case would be. You have to show the extent of your injuries and losses, often involving multiple investigations by your lawyer and the insurance company.

The Downside of Going to Trial:

Trials are costly. Your doctor might charge a lot just to testify. If the trial were avoided, you wouldn’t have to pay for expert witnesses, legal fees wouldn’t skyrocket, and you wouldn’t face numerous other court costs. Settling early also means you avoid the possibility of having to pay the insurance company’s costs if the jury doesn’t award you more than what was offered.

Settling Means Getting Paid Sooner:

If there’s no trial, you get your settlement sooner. You avoid delays from trials, post-trial motions, and possible appeals that can take years.

The Personal Costs of a Trial:

Going to trial takes a toll. It would involve time off work for you and your witnesses, repeated medical exams, and preparing for court appearances. This can add stress, lose income, and increase anxiety over unresolved financial issues.

Why Settling Is Often Required:

Sometimes, laws push for settlement if the insurance offers a reasonable amount. Rejecting such an offer can mean paying the insurance company’s costs if the jury doesn’t award you more.

What’s Needed for a Settlement?

A settlement happens when the liability and extent of injuries are clear. Your lawyer must present strong evidence and a detailed demand for compensation to the insurance adjuster.

Signing Off on a Settlement:

You’ll need to sign a release, waiving further claims or court proceedings. This binds not just you but also your spouse and heirs. If your case went to court, you and your lawyer must sign to officially end it. All paperwork is technical and requires a lawyer’s help.

Special Considerations for Minors:

Minors can’t legally sign a release. Settlements involving children often need a judge’s approval and might be structured for future payments to protect the minor’s interests.

In summary, settling a dog bite case can be more straightforward, less costly, and quicker than pursuing a trial, especially with expert legal help from someone like Kenneth Phillips, who specializes in these cases.

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