Dogs can be a great source of companionship, as well as security. They can be vital to both the disabled and law enforcement. In fact, many people think of their dogs as family members. Unfortunately, dogs can also inflict injury and harm.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. Of these, about 800,000 seek medical attention, and half are children.
Indeed, the highest rate of emergency room visits for dog bites occurred in children under the age of 10. The yearly hospital costs associated with dog bite victims is upwards of $54 million and insurance companies spend more than $1 billion in claims.
Dog Bites Cause Serious, Permanent and Even Deadly Injuries
Injuries inflicted by dog bites can include skin lacerations, skin infections, bone fractures and even blood poisoning. According to the American Human Society, approximately 71% of dog bites occur to arms, legs, hands and feet. Yet, 65% of the bites in children occur to the head and neck.
Medical treatment for dog bite wounds can be extensive, painful and expensive in the absence of health insurance. Treatment can include stitches, casting, and even surgery. Scarring, often severe and disfiguring, is fairly common with dog bites.
Treatment for Dog Bites
Treatment often includes wound debridement which can be a very painful process of removing dead tissue around the wound site with forceps, a scalpel or other medical instruments. It is often done under anesthesia. In more serious cases, skin grafts and reconstructive surgery may be required. Some cases involve life-long scarring and nerve damage.
Because these cases often involve serious or permanent injuries, an injured person or family member should take a number of important steps to insure full compensation for injuries and damages.
Personal Injury Claims for Dog Bite Injuries
Dog owners have a duty to control their dogs. This is particularly so in case of repeat offender dogs. There may also be an elevated duty of care for certain breeds.
In most cases, a personal injury suit for dog bite injuries will come under the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. There may on fairly rare occasions, at least in New Mexico, be a personal liability umbrella policy (PLUP).
Homeowner’s insurance typically has a minimum of $100,000 in policy limits for New Mexico policies. More often than not, as with auto insurance policies, homeowner’s will carry the minimal limits. Unfortunately, is cases involving serious injuries or wrongful death, these minimal limits will be insufficient. Homeowner’s that carry a PLUP will have much higher limits, usually with a minimum of $1 million in coverage. However, these are again fairly uncommon in New Mexico.
Seek Legal Guidance Immediately
It is important to seek legal guidance right away in dog bite cases with serious injuries. It will be important to document the incident, gather information on the owner of the animal, and to gather information on the dog’s history. Most importantly, all possible insurance coverage must be identified. In the event that the dog owner has neither homeowner’s or a PLUP, it will be necessary to try to identify other coverage. If there is no coverage, it may be rather futile to proceed since most folks with no insurance have no assets worth protecting.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a dog bite, the Albuquerque personal injury attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. will be glad to review your case.