How Long After a Dog Attack Can You Sue?

June 24, 2024 | By Polito & Harrington LLC
How Long After a Dog Attack Can You Sue?

Dogs are often lovable, furry friends who become a part of the family. However, they are also unpredictable animals, and even the most loving dog can turn aggressive when least expected.

When a dog bite accident happens, it can mean a long and painful road to recovery for the victim. Sometimes, they struggle with permanent scarring, disfigurement, and mental trauma for years to come.

Dog bite victims often have rights under the law, but if you are in this position, you must take proactive steps to exercise these rights and seek compensation. One potential path is to file a lawsuit against the dog owner. Time is limited to file a case, so never wait to consult a dog bite attorney near you.

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Dog Bite Laws Depend on State Law

Dog Bites Neighbor

Whether you can recover financially and how much compensation you might be owed after a dog bite depends on state law. There are two major schools of thought about owner liability after a dog bite. Some states follow strict liability laws, and others follow what is known as the one-bite rule.

In a nutshell, strict liability means that the dog owner is automatically liable for the injuries you suffered after being bitten by their dog. Strict liability, however, does not mean that the dog’s owner or their insurance company will not put up a fight to avoid paying damages. An attorney can help you present a persuasive case for compensation to the insurance company or in court.

States that follow the one bite rule focus on determining liability on whether the owner knew that the dog had a history of biting.

In the one bite rule states, victims typically must prove that:

  • The dog’s owner knew, or because of past behavior, should have expected, that their dog was likely to bite someone.
  • The owner failed to take proper precautions to protect others from being bitten by their dog.

Is There a Deadline to Sue After a Dog Bite?

Each state has its deadlines for filing an injury lawsuit. The deadline for filing a lawsuit is called the statute of limitations.

The success of your claim requires that you comply with the statute of limitations. For most accident victims, missing the statute of limitations means you lose the legal right to pursue compensation for your damages.

A dog bite accident lawyer will ensure you do not miss the applicable statute of limitations and comply with other critical procedural rules.

What Happens if I Miss the Deadline to Sue?

What Happens if I Miss the Deadline to Sue

For most accident victims, missing the statute of limitations to sue destroys their claim. Most often, even if you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations expires, your case will fail.

After you file a lawsuit, the insurance company or defendant gets wind of the victim missing the deadline and files a motion to dismiss the case. Cases with expired statutes of limitations are usually formally dismissed by the court, and victims are barred from re-filing.

Are There Exceptions to Missing the Statute of Limitations?

A few exceptions exist to missing the statute of limitations in a dog bite case.

Examples of these narrow exceptions include:

  • The Dog Owner Leaves the State – Depending on state law, if the dog’s owner leaves the state after the bite, the statute of limitations is stopped until the owner returns.
  • The Victim Was Under 18 Years Old – Like other civil cases, if the victim of a dog bite is a minor (meaning under 18), the clock does not start running on their claim until their 18th birthday.

Can a Dog Owner Face Criminal Charges After a Bite?

Depending on the surrounding circumstances, you might have the right to pursue criminal charges after a dog bite. One major factor is where the bite happened. Dog bite law is heavily influenced by the state where the bite occurred. Some states may offer a victim the right to press criminal charges for a dog bite, while others may not.

Another factor to consider is whether the dog has dangerous propensities. Whether a dog has dangerous propensities refers to the dog’s tendency to attack or bite someone without being provoked.

How Can a Dog Bite Attorney Help Me During Settlement Negotiations?

Negotiating a fair settlement with a dog owner’s insurance company can be overwhelming. Having an attorney helps bridge the gap between getting injured and receiving compensation for your losses.

Many civil cases, including dog bite cases, are settled during negotiations. Putting your best foot forward while negotiating to get the fairest settlement available is critical. An attorney can help accomplish your goal of receiving your deserved compensation through skilled negotiation.

An experienced attorney can help you understand the extent of your damages and legal rights after getting bitten.

Negotiating Settlement

Several factors help attorneys estimate what a fair settlement will include, like:

  • The nature and extent of your injuries.
  • Whether you suffered from emotional trauma because of the bite.
  • If you were disfigured or permanently disabled.
  • Your lost income if your injuries made it impossible for you to return to work.

Insurance companies will likely undervalue your claim and offer less than you deserve, possibly after negotiations. A lawsuit might need to seek full compensation, and you must file your case within the statute of limitations.

Do I Need an Attorney After a Dog Bite Attack?

The short answer is yes. Whenever you have a legal issue, you should seek professional advice from an experienced attorney. Dog bite cases, in particular, can leave a victim with more questions than answers.

A lawyer can resolve your concerns and ease any anxiety about moving forward with your claim.

Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer Today!

Having the support of the right legal team behind you after an injury is invaluable. An attorney’s job is to protect your rights after an accident and ensure the best outcome. Contact a personal injury lawyer immediately if you suffer an injury.