Ohio law dictates that dog owners are strictly liable for dog bites. However, you can also recover under the law of Negligence (when another person is careless). You do not need to have two separate cases, but you can use either or both theories to prove your case. I usually make a claim under both theories through statute 95528, which states that the owner, keeper, or harbor of a dog is liable for damages or injury caused by the dog unless the injury was caused to a person attempting to commit or committing a crime or teasing or tormenting the dog.
As I’ve said before, I don’t recommend clients give statements to the insurance companies without first speaking to their attorneys. Insurance companies can use information you give them against you to try to fight liability.
The statute specifically says “...owner, keeper, or harbor...”, because sometimes, there are incidents where an owner leaves their dog in the care of another person, whether for a few minutes or a few days. If the dog was under the care of someone other than the owner during the time of the accident, that person may also be liable for your injuries.
As long as you are not tormenting or teasing the dog, there is almost no argument to place fault on the dog bite victim.
The value of a case will depend on many factors. The amount of medical bills does not always tell the story of the dog bite case. A dog bite victim may have minimal medical bills, but high damages. For example, if a child gets bit on the face and the treatment only requires stitches, the medical bill will not be very high. However, that child may have a permanent scar for the rest of their lives. The case would have significant value based on the location of the scar and the impact it would have on the victim’s life (the victim would have to look at the scar every day for the rest of their life). A scar on someone’s leg may have less value than on a face.
So, when someone says, “I got bit by a dog, but I just had stitches. I can probably resolve this myself”, I strongly advise against it, because they may have a very difficult time fighting for a fair settlement when the bills are very minimal.
There are a couple of reasons I tell people they should speak to a lawyer. Again, discussing your case with a lawyer does not mean that you have to hire them. By speaking to a lawyer, you can learn essential information about your case, discuss your options, and make an informed decision.
Not hiring a lawyer does not mean that the claim will disappear for your neighbor. It just means that nobody is representing you, while someone is representing your neighbor. Additionally, filing a claim does not mean you are suing your neighbor.
If you require medical treatment for your injuries but do not file a claim with the at-fault party (your neighbor), you may have issues with your health insurance, because they will want to identify the liable party for paying the bills. Your health insurance will likely contact your neighbor’s insurance and notify them of the incident. The best thing you can do is offer all available information so that the claim can be properly handled.
Not at all. First of all, people often don’t know what damages they are entitled to recover for. The dog owner’s insurance is not going to help you identify your damages. There are many more damages than just medical bills and economic damages. If you fail to identify all damages, the value of your claim could decrease dramatically. The insurance company will only offer you a little more than the total of your medical bills, and you will miss out on a much larger sum of money you are entitled to. If you hire an attorney, you can recover enough to multiply your recovery many times, and have a much larger settlement in your pocket even after paying your attorney fees.
Insurance companies will often discourage you from getting a lawyer because they know you are much more likely to accept an unfair and low settlement without one. They know that attorneys will identify all sources of damages, while you most likely will not.
Another good reason to contact a lawyer early-on is to determine whether their presence can make a significant impact in your case. I am in the business of representing people, so I am not going to turn down a case. But what I will sometimes do is say, “I don’t make a heck of a lot of difference for you in this case.” I’ll say, “You know what, your case is probably worth this range, which is a low range and it’s going to be in this range whether you hire me or not”. With this information, people can decide if they want to pursue their case on their own, and they will have a clear expectation of what their case could settle for. However, let’s say your case has a likely range of $1,000 to $1,500. A lawyer will be able to get you the $1,500 versus the $1,000. However, they’re going to get a 1/3 fee, so they’ll get $500 and you get $1,000 either way. I advise people with such low-range cases on how to obtain the maximum settlement on their own. It is always a good idea to run the case by a lawyer because they will point out things you have not thought of. I will only take a fee on what I get you beyond what the insurance offer is prior to you retaining me, and every single time, I have gotten clients more money than they were offered before being represented.