What Factors Influence Dog Bite Case Settlements?
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What Factors Influence Dog Bite Case Settlements?
One of the most important questions in any legal case is: Where did it happen? Depending on location, the same action could be a serious felony, a minor misdemeanor, or no crime at all. With dog bites, location is very important, as the different states in the US set their own laws about liability when it comes to dog bites. Generally speaking, states follow one of two approaches to dog bite laws.
The first group is those who have adopted "strict liability" laws. In these states, foreknowledge that an animal is dangerous isn't something the plaintiff must prove to collect damages. Merely proving that the animal is responsible for an injury is enough. Of course, to collect in these situations, you must also be able to prove that you didn't provoke the animal to attack. Walking down a sidewalk typically wouldn't be a provocation, but stealing a toy or food from a dog would likely strip you of legal protection from a subsequent attack.
A smaller number of states, including New Mexico
, have an older approach colloquially known as the "one-bite" law. In these states, dog owners can only be held responsible for a dog bite if they had foreknowledge that their dog could be dangerous to others. For example, a dog owner would know that his or her dog was dangerous if it had bit someone before. In a sense, these laws give dogs "one bite free" before their owners face legal repercussions. However, what most people get wrong about these kinds of laws is that it isn't just bites that forewarn of aggressive behavior
A variety of behaviors that could signal future aggression include:
- Aggressive barking or growling, whether against strangers or friends/family
- Aggressive behavior towards other animals, especially fighting other dogs
- Chasing people, bicycles, or vehicles
- Jumping on people
Another major red flag is if someone had complained to the owner about the dog acting violently. After any of the above situations, owners should take steps to modify their dog's behavior to ensure that their dog doesn't harm anyone else. They will open themselves up to substantial legal liability if they don't.
However, a lack of a prior history of aggressive behavior doesn't completely free owners from liability in certain situations. If the owner has been negligent in their handling of the dog, then they can still be sued in New Mexico. Examples of negligence include things like leaving their dog in an unfenced yard (or allowing it to roam freely through the neighborhood), encouraging it to jump on people or bite things, even in play, or leaving it unmonitored with someone it didn't know.
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Who Pays for a Dog Bite?
In most cases, the dog's owner would be the one held responsible for any injuries the dog causes. In most cases, the owner will carry some type of insurance that would cover this eventuality. For attacks at the owner's home or on their property, their homeowner's insurance or renters policy would likely include coverage for animal attacks. If off the property, an umbrella policy may still cover the owner.
Typically, the insurance company won't want to see the case go to court. There's always a chance they could win, but there's usually a better chance of losing and being out massive legal fees along the way. Consequently, insurance companies will generally try to settle—which is often advantageous for the victim, as they receive compensation more quickly and with less stress.
How Much is a Dog Bite Case Worth in New Mexico?
In 2019, there were 96 dog bite claims in New Mexico
. That's likely an undercount, as some bites may not have had a claim filed, and with the state's growing population of humans and their pets, the number of dog bites will be larger this year. Collectively, those cases result in $3.85 million in claims, which is around $40,000 per case. While those numbers may sound like a lot, they actually put New Mexico towards the bottom of the list regarding both the number of incidents and settlement value. (California topped the list with 2,396 cases and an average cost per claim of over $51,000. And at the other end of the spectrum, Alaska ranked 50th in total number of dog bites, with just 31 claims filed in 2019, though its average claim value was relatively high at $47,237.)
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, your settlement could be far more, or far less than the average listed above. If your injuries are minor, expect to see a smaller settlement. If they are major, resulting in significant hospital time, lost wages from missing work, and a decrease in your standard of living, you could generally expect your settlement to be far higher.
How Kane Helps with Dog Bite Cases
Winning a dog bite case in New Mexico is about proving that the dog owner knew or should have known that their dog was violent, or that they behaved negligently, resulting in the injury. Collecting the evidence needed to prove that one of these scenarios occurred can be challenging when you or a loved one is trying to recover from a serious injury. One of the best reasons to contact a lawyer if a dog has bitten you is that they do the leg work for you, collecting all the evidence needed to build as strong a case as possible, to win you the largest settlement possible. Contact Kane today
for a free consultation. And remember, if you don't, we don't make a dime.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.