While dogs generally provide tremendous emotional benefits for the families they are a part of, they also present a risk of injury, as any dog can bite.
If someone else’s aggressive dog injured you, you can seek compensation for the financial and emotional costs of the injury through the Wisconsin personal injury claims process. An experienced Milwaukee dog bite lawyer from Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers can explain the process to you and provide information about the services our legal team can provide to assist you with your claim.
- Why Dog Bites Happen in Milwaukee
- The Types of Injuries and Complications Associated with Dog Bites
- The Process of Seeking Compensation After Incurring a Dog Bite in Milwaukee
- Frequently Asked Questions About Milwaukee Dog Bite Claims
- Trust Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers to Help You With Your Milwaukee Dog Bite Claim
Why Dog Bites Happen in Milwaukee
According to statistics provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association, around 40 percent of the households in the U.S. own at least one dog. The most recent census results for Milwaukee note that there are nearly 230,000 households in the city, meaning that there are at least 92,000 dogs in the city.
Milwaukee is no stranger to dog bite incidences. According to research, the Milwaukee Department of Health reported more than 3,200 dog bites in a three-year period. Bites were more likely to occur in the city during the spring and summer months. Victims were more likely to be children, and the dog was more likely to belong either to the victim or someone they knew.
Researchers at the time noted a link between the areas where these dog bites occurred and median household distribution, with dog bites more commonly occurring in low-income neighborhoods. Additional studies in the U.S. and other parts of the world indicate a correlation between income and dog bites.
One of the reasons for this disparity is the ability of affluent dog owners to afford extensive training and proper socialization opportunities for their pets that pet owners in lower-income neighborhoods are less likely to have the means to provide. Additionally, obtaining a large guard dog for property protection is more common in low-income neighborhoods, and the dogs’ training often focuses on protecting the family.
The census reports that the median household income in Milwaukee is around $43,000 and nearly one-quarter of all the city’s residents live in poverty.
Beyond the impact of income on the amount of training a dog receives and the purposes the dog serves for the family, Milwaukee sees a lot of dog bites because it is a dog-friendly town and many areas permit residents to bring their dogs. Rescue organizations throughout Wisconsin are devoted to transporting homeless dogs from more overpopulated southern states to have a better opportunity for adoption in pet-friendly areas like Milwaukee.
The Types of Injuries and Complications Associated with Dog Bites
Dog bites can significantly damage the skin and soft tissues, with the animal’s powerful jaws often crushing or tearing at muscles or skin. In extreme attacks, the dog can penetrate the neck, cutting off the ability of the victim to breathe and causing extreme blood loss. The jaws of a large dog are strong enough to penetrate the chest wall, abdomen, or break bones.
More often, however, the wound received from the bite is not as serious as the potential infection resulting from the wound. Around 10-15 percent of all dog bites will become infected. These infections can become serious if not treated promptly, leading to other health problems or even death.
The Process of Seeking Compensation After Incurring a Dog Bite in Milwaukee
If a dog bit you in Milwaukee, you can seek compensation for expenses and psychological impacts of your injury through Wisconsin’s personal injury claims process. This process generally begins with a claim filed against the relevant insurance policy of the at-fault party. The at-fault party in a dog bite case is the dog’s owner, and dog bite claims are usually filed against their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
When the insurer receives the claim, they assign it to a claims adjuster. This person is an insurance company employee responsible for evaluating the claim and determining how much money the insurer owes the claimant. As an insurance company employee, they view the claim through the lens of protecting their employer’s bottom line and keeping the payout as low as possible. After reviewing the claim, the adjuster can either pay it, deny it, or offer to settle it out of court for less than its established value.
If the insurance provider fails to pay the claim, your attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit and ask a judge or jury to determine liability and the amount of compensation owed to the claimant.
How Liability in Wisconsin Dog Bite Claims Is Determined
Wisconsin has passed strict liability for dog bites. The dog’s owner is responsible for compensating for injuries their pet inflicts on others, regardless of whether the dog owner had any prior knowledge that their dog could bite.
Wisconsin’s dog bite law goes even further by stating that the dog’s owner must pay two times the damage caused by the dog if the dog previously bit someone without provocation and broke the skin.
Compensation a Victim Can Seek Through a Dog Bite Claim
Milwaukee personal injury claimants can seek compensation for their injury expenses, known as economic damages. Some of the expenses commonly included in a personal injury claim are all costs associated with medical treatment for the injury and its complications, such as infection or scarring. You can also seek compensation for the wages and other benefits you lost if you missed work because of the injury.
Some injuries result in permanent deficits that can impair the sufferer’s ability to return to work or earn an income. The victim can seek compensation for lost earning capacity in these cases if they cannot return to work. If a victim suffered damage to personal property, such as torn clothing or a broken cell phone, as a result of the attack, they can seek repayment of the cost of those items.
However, not all of the costs associated with dog bite injuries are financial. Being bitten by a dog is a traumatic experience that can also result in psychological costs. Compensation for the mental impacts of the injury is known as non-economic damages and often includes physical pain and suffering or emotional distress.
How an Attorney Can Assist You With Your Claim
When a dog bites an individual, they often don’t think of hiring an attorney to help them recover the financial and psychological costs of the injury because:
- The victim knows the owner and doesn’t want to offend them by asking for money. However, the claim is generally filed against the dog owner’s insurance policy, not against the dog owner themselves.
- The victim doesn’t believe their injury is serious enough to warrant a claim. Dog bite injuries can have permanent, long-lasting impacts. If your injury resulted in a trip to the ER or caused you to miss work, it has resulted in expenses that you have a right to seek compensation to cover.
- The victim thinks they were somehow responsible for the dog biting. The only exceptions to the dog owner’s liability when their dog bites someone in Wisconsin are in circumstances where the dog was working for law enforcement, and the bite occurred during the course of apprehending a suspect. The owner is otherwise liable if a dog causes bodily harm to someone by biting or even knocking them down.
- The victim doesn’t think they can afford to hire an experienced Milwaukee dog bite lawyer to help them. Personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations and bill for their services in a way that ensures anyone who needs assistance with their claim has access.
An experienced attorney brings experience with—and understanding of—the legal process and their understanding of how insurance companies work.
This knowledge allows them to:
- Determine the insurance resources held by the liable dog owner that can compensate you.
- Establish a value to your claim that includes compensation for the psychological impacts of your injury as well as costs.
- Determine if the dog owner had prior knowledge of their pet’s aggressive behavior that will result in additional compensation being available for your claim.
- Communicate with the at-fault dog owner’s insurance provider to protect the value of your claim from tactics claims adjusters commonly use to reduce payouts and to keep the conversation focused on negotiating a settlement offer that fairly compensates you for your injuries.
- File the claim in court within the statute of limitations to protect your right to use the court process to seek compensation in the event the dog owner’s insurance provider fails to pay the claim.
- Gather the evidence, documentation, and witness testimony needed to justify the value of your claim.
- Present the case before a judge or jury if the claim fails to settle. Most personal injury claims resolve through a negotiated settlement. In one year, plaintiffs filed more than 400 claims against insurance policies for dog bites in Wisconsin, with an average claim amount of $42,000.
- Collect your negotiated settlement or court award.
Frequently Asked Questions About Milwaukee Dog Bite Claims
The personal injury claims process can often confuse or overwhelm claimants who do not have experience or education in the law. Here are the answers to some of the general questions about the process that we are most frequently asked by those who have suffered a dog bite injury in Milwaukee.
What is the statute of limitations in a Milwaukee dog bite claim, and why does it matter?
The Wisconsin personal injury statute of limitations is three years from the injury date. This state law requires that all personal injury lawsuits be filed in court before this date passes. The claim does not have to resolve during this time, and the parties can still settle after a lawsuit has been filed, as long as a judge or jury has not yet rendered a decision on the matter.
Meeting the statute of limitations for your claim is one of the most important parts of the process, as allowing this date to pass will generally result in the loss of the right to pursue the claim in court if the insurance provider fails to pay the claim. Litigation is expensive and offers the insurance company very little control over how the courts will decide.
Because of this, most insurance providers will attempt to negotiate a settlement agreement to avoid litigation. If the statute of limitations has expired, the insurance company will usually be unwilling to offer a settlement because there are no longer any legal consequences.
Can I seek compensation if my loved one died from a dog attack?
Yes. Individuals who lost a loved one, such as a spouse, parent, or child, due to a dog attack can seek compensation for their economic and emotional losses through a wrongful death claim. Wisconsin’s wrongful death claims process is very similar to seeking compensation for injuries through a personal injury claim. The family member or representative files a claim against the dog owner’s insurance policy. If the insurance provider fails to compensate the claim, it can be filed as a lawsuit in court within three years of the deceased’s death.
A wrongful death claims process includes economic damages for expenses, such as final medical expenses, funeral service, burial or cremation costs, loss of support and services the deceased provided, and the loss of inheritance the deceased’s family members would have received. Wrongful death claimants can also seek compensation for the loss of society and companionship they received from the deceased in life, with up to $350,000 available in non-economic damages for a deceased adult and up to $500,000 for a deceased minor.
If my child suffered injuries from a dog bite, can they file a claim?
Dogs bite for various reasons, including stress, protection, or being played with or teased. Children are the most common victims of these bites, and dog bite injuries to small children typically are the most serious due to the size of the child relative to the dog’s mouth and the likelihood that the bite will result in injuries to the throat and face.
Children under 18 cannot enter into legal agreements independently and therefore are not permitted to file a dog bite claim. Parents and legal guardians can file the claim on the child’s behalf. In these circumstances, the court must approve any settlement agreements to ensure that the claim serves the child’s best interests. Often, the funds received in the settlement must be placed in a trust to be protected until the child reaches the age of majority.
If no one files a claim on the child’s behalf, they can wait until their 18th birthday to file the claim on their own. They will have three years from the date they turn 18 to file.
What if I can’t afford an attorney to assist me with my Milwaukee dog bite claim?
We make it so you can afford our lawyers. We do that by only getting paid if we win for you.
As noted, the fear of being unable to afford an attorney is one of the most common reasons why dog bite victims fail to obtain legal assistance when filing a personal injury claim. It is little wonder that nearly every legal issue portrayed on television involves a discussion of the attorney’s retainer and a big, dramatic court battle. In truth, most personal injury claims resolve by settlement before they see the inside of a courtroom, and settlement negotiations often aren’t dramatic. However, an attorney still has a crucial role in ensuring clients obtain the compensation they need through a settlement.
Fortunately, our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys provide free case evaluations and use a contingent fee billing method to receive payment for their services. These two aspects of the attorney’s pay ensure that anyone who needs the assistance of a personal injury attorney has access to their services.
The free case evaluation provides a no-obligation conversation between a potential claimant and a Milwaukee dog bite lawyer. This conversation provides time to learn more about the personal injury claims process and the type of services the attorney can provide to assist the claimant.
The contingent fee billing method allows the claimant to wait to pay for their attorney’s services until they successfully collect compensation for their claim.
Here is how this process works:
- When you decide to hire an attorney to help you with your claim, you will enter into a contingent fee agreement with them. This legally-binding agreement outlines the type of services you will receive and designates a percentage of the compensation awarded to you as payment for those services.
- Because no upfront retainer is required, work can begin immediately on your claim. You will not receive monthly bills for the hours the Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers legal team has spent on your claim, and you will not have to keep up with those bills in order to ensure that the work continues.
- At the resolution of your claim, your attorney will receive the compensation on your behalf. The funds will be placed in a trust account. From the trust, your attorney will satisfy any medical liens placed on the award from your treatment and deduct the percentage designated as payment for their services. They will meet with you to finalize your case and turn the remainder of the compensation over to you.
Contact Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers for your free case evaluation to learn more about our legal team’s services and how we can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your dog bite injury.
Trust Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers to Help You With Your Milwaukee Dog Bite Claim
If you suffered an injury from someone else’s dog, the experienced legal team at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers can seek compensation for your injuries. Our team ensures that the injured can seek the compensation they need to cover often financial and emotional injuries. Winning is what we do, and we don’t get paid unless you do.
2790 S Fulton St
Milwaukee, WI 53207