In 2015, homeowners insurance companies in the United States paid an average of $38,000 per incident to settle dog bite claims. Furthermore, about half of the 885,000 serious injury bite victims were children.
The large number of child victims helps explain why the average claim is so high. Most attacking dogs are pit bulls, rottweilers, and other large animals, so the knockdown alone often causes head injuries and broken bones. These young victims are usually seriously traumatized, and they often suffer from nightmares, flashbacks, and other similar symptoms for months or even years after the attack. In addition to all this, there are the severe and deep lacerations that usually come from teeth and claw wounds.
What legal options do these victims have in Nevada, and how will the insurance company try to reduce the amount of compensation they receive?
Since Nevada does not have a separate dog bite law, by default, it is a “one-bite” state. This means that owners are usually only liable for damages if the animal had either attacked someone before or had displayed vicious propensities, like snarling, growling, baring teeth, vicious barking, and so on. In premises liability matters, negligence is essentially a lack of ordinary care, and if owners know that their animals are potentially dangerous yet do not take additional steps to control them, such behavior clearly falls below ordinary care.
In addition to standard negligence, there are a few other legal theories victims can pursue, depending on the circumstances:
- Negligence Per Se: Victims do not have to establish a lack of ordinary care if the owner violated a “leash law” or other animal restraint statute, and that violation substantially caused the victim’s damages.
- Scienter: This word is Latin for “knowledge.” If the owner or custodian knew that the dog was potentially dangerous, the owner or custodian may be liable for damages. Victims often use scienter if the animal was with a caregiver or veterinarian when it attacked.
Scienter cases also essentially raise a presumption in favor of punitive damages, because it is often reckless to know about a risk and ignore that danger. These damages are available in addition to ordinary damages for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Insurance Company Defenses
The insurance company’s defense of choice basically depends on the age of the victim.
In child victim cases, defense lawyers usually raise the provocation defense. They essentially argue that the animal would not have attacked the child if not for the child’s actions. That is the key element in these defenses, because provocation is an action and not a word. In fact, the act must be so severe that it inflicts pain on the animal and legally justified the dog’s violent response.
Adult victims normally do not provoke animals, so the insurance company will claim that they assumed the risk of injury. For this doctrine to apply, the victim must voluntarily assume a known risk. So, unless the victim already knew that the animal was vicious or the animal was aggressive before the attack and in the victim’s presence, the defense is probably not applicable.
Speak With an Experienced Attorney
Dog bites often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas, contact Naqvi Injury Law. We normally do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.