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What Happens to Dogs and Their Owners After Dog Bite Lawsuits?

According to a recent American Pet Products Association survey, dogs are hugely popular in the U.S., with 65.1 million U.S. households owning dogs. However, even the most beloved and well-behaved canines can bite, leading to legal consequences.

If you suffer injuries in a dog bite attack, you may hesitate to file for compensation due to worries about the dog owner or their pet, especially if they are friends or family. Understanding who pays for damages in a dog bite case and the consequences to dogs that bite can help you decide whether to file your claim.

Who Pays for Damages in a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

Many people assume that because dog owners are responsible for injuries their pet causes, they will be financially accountable for the damages. While it is true dog owners are liable for harm their dog causes, it doesn’t mean they will pay out-of-pocket.

Most dog bite claims are paid by homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies rather than directly by the dog owners themselves. These insurance policies typically include coverage for dog bite liability, with liability limits ranging from $100,000 to $300,000. If the claim exceeds the coverage limit, the dog owner may be personally responsible for the excess damages.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), dog-related injury claims amounted to $1,136 million in 2022 for homeowners’ insurers. The average cost per dog bite claim rose by 31.7%, reaching $64,555 compared to $49,025 in 2021. Over the past decade, the average cost per claim has increased by 131.7% from 2013 to 2022.

Insurance companies have varying approaches for insuring homeowners who own certain breeds categorized as dangerous. Some companies may refuse coverage, while others evaluate each case individually, regardless of breed. Some insurers don’t ask about the dog’s breed during underwriting or renewal and don’t track breed-related bite incidents.

However, if a dog has previously bitten someone, it increases the homeowner’s risk, potentially resulting in higher premiums, policy nonrenewal, or exclusion of dog coverage.

When Does Court-Ordered Euthanasia Come into Play? 

When you suffer a dog bite injury, you may hesitate to file a claim or report the incident due to not wanting the dog to be harmed. This is a natural response for those who love animals or if you know the dog or their owner personally.

However, it’s helpful to understand that while there are some cases when court-ordered euthanasia might be necessary, it isn’t typically the first response by authorities in a dog bite case. For example, if your neighbor or friend’s dog bites you but does not have a history of aggression, filing a claim to help pay for your medical bills will not result in the dog being put down.

Under Section 174.02 (3) of the Wisconsin state legislature, the state, municipality, or person injured by the dog, or whose child or domestic animal was hurt by the dog, can initiate a civil action to obtain a euthanasia judgment from the court.

The court may grant the judgment if it finds two key factors:

  1. The dog caused severe injuries to a domestic animal or person two or more times on separate occasions off the owner’s property.
  2. The owner of the dog was notified or had prior knowledge that the dog caused the first injury before the second incident occurred.

In such cases, an officer authorized by the court is responsible for enforcing the judgment and carrying out the euthanasia of the dog properly and humanely. Court-ordered euthanasia is a serious outcome and is typically reserved for situations where the dog’s behavior poses a major risk.

Receive the Compensation You Need After a Dog Attack

If you’ve been injured in a dog attack in Wisconsin, filing for compensation is crucial to ensure you receive the necessary damages to cover your injuries and related expenses. Our experienced Appleton dog bite lawyers understand the complexities of dog bite cases and will work to help you get a fair settlement from the owners’ insurance company.

We are dedicated to helping you navigate the legal process and secure the compensation you deserve. You protect your rights and promote responsible pet ownership and community safety by taking action. Contact our legal team today to explore your compensation options and begin your claim.

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