The amount of compensation you can expect to receive in a dog bite settlement depends on several factors, including the dog bite laws in your state and the circumstances of your case. Learn more about what factors influence dog bite lawsuit settlement amounts.

Jurisdiction in a Dog Bite Lawsuit

Because laws vary significantly from state to state, dog bite lawsuit settlement amounts are highly dependent on what part of the country has jurisdiction over the claim. Generally, a dog bite lawsuit must be filed in the state where the dog attack occurred. Before filing a claim, a dog bite victim should make sure there is a good chance the dog owner is liable under state law. Some states are known as “strict liability” states, meaning the dog’s owner is liable for injuries caused by the dog, even if there were no warning signs that the dog was potentially dangerous. Other states go by what is known as the “one bite” rule. Dog owners are only liable when a dog has bitten before and/or the owner knew the dog was aggressive and potentially dangerous.

State laws also determine what kind of damages can be collected in a personal injury lawsuit within their state. Many states have caps or limitations on punitive damages and noneconomic compensatory damages. The laws in your state regarding personal injury damages can have a huge effect on the value of your settlement. Finally, socioeconomic factors within your geographic area will also impact the average settlement amounts for local dog bite lawsuits. For example, dog bite lawsuit settlement amounts in the San Francisco Bay area tend to be higher than the average dog bite settlement in rural Mississippi.

Damages in a Dog Bite Lawsuit

There are two kinds of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit: punitive and compensatory. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for particularly bad behavior. Because they are not tied to actual losses suffered by the plaintiff, punitive damages are highly regulated by states. Most states place some limitations or caps on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff. If you live in a state that strictly limits or does not allow punitive damages for personal injury lawsuits, the amount of your settlement may be limited by the amount of compensatory damages you incurred.

While punitive damages place an emphasis on punishment, compensatory damages are meant to compensate the defendant for their pain and loss. Compensatory damages include economic losses (medical bills and expenses, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, etc.), as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering and mental anguish. Compensatory damages are sometimes referred to as “actual damages,” because they should reflect the harm actually suffered by the victim.

Unfortunately, compensatory damages tend to yield larger settlements for higher-earning victims. For example, an injured person making $10,000 a month who is out of work for three months will incur $30,000 in lost wages alone. By comparison, a person making $2,000 a month that suffers the exact same injury will only be able to recover $6,000 in lost wages. The value of your settlement will depend on the amount of actual damages lost in your case.

Comparative Negligence in a Dog Bite Lawsuit

Dog bite statutes and negligence laws can also be very different between states. Some states make dog owners inherently responsible for their pets, while other states require the victim to establish the dog owner acted negligently to become liable for damages. Most states also go by what is known as a “comparative negligence” law. Comparative negligence is the degree to which each party in a lawsuit is at fault. The total amount of damages incurred in a personal injury case will be reduced by the percentage the plaintiff is at fault for her own injuries. For instance, if the plaintiff was found to be 30% at fault because she trespassed onto the defendant’s property, the damages awarded to her would be reduced by 30%. Again, the importance of determining negligence in your case depends on the dog bite laws in your state. A comparative negligence defense can significantly lower the value of your settlement.

Average Dog Bite Lawsuit Settlement Amounts

Because no two dog bite lawsuits are alike, there is no true “average” settlement amount. With that in mind, State Farm and the Insurance Information Institute found the average dog bite settlement in 2015 was $32,000. The number varies significantly by state, but the overall trend shows that dog bite settlements are becoming larger and increasingly common.

For More Information, Contact a Local Dog Bite Attorney

To find out how much you can expect from a dog bite lawsuit settlement, set up a free initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer in your area.