How Long Do I Have to Sue for a Dog Bite?
Usually, dogs are loving and faithful animal companions. However, if they feel threatened or frightened, a dog can quickly become aggressive. One of the most common aggressive responses among dogs is to bite.
Dog bites can cause serious injuries. In addition to the physical trauma of the attack, the risk of infection is high and the mental and emotional effects can last for years. If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensation from the owner. However, you have a limited time to file a claim.
An experienced Raleigh dog bite lawyer can build a strong claim on your behalf. Contact Whitley Law Firm today for a free consultation.
Statute of Limitations on Dog Bite Claims in North Carolina
Every state has time limits on certain legal claims. These are known as the statute of limitations. In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims (including dog bites) is three years from the date that the injury occurred.
So, if you were bitten by a dog, you have three years to bring a claim against the owner.
Three years may seem like a long time. However, it is important to start building your dog bite claim well ahead of the date that the statute of limitations expires.
Why You Should Start on Your Dog Bite Injury Claim Now
Building a strong personal injury claim takes time. It can also involve a number of difficulties, especially if you are unsure who owns the dog that bit you.
You don’t want to miss your chance to recover compensation, so it is crucial to contact a lawyer sooner rather than later. Major challenges an attorney can overcome in building your dog bite case include:
1. Identifying the Dog’s Owner
Dog bites generally fall under the area of personal injury law known as premises liability. The majority of dog attacks occur on the owner’s property, such as the front yard or inside the house or apartment. In these cases, it is fairly easy to identify who the owner of the dog is, especially if the animal belongs to a friend or family member.
However, if you are attacked by a dog outside of the owner’s property – such as when you are walking down the street – it can be difficult to know who the owner is and how to reach him or her. This is especially true if the dog is not accompanied by the owner.
Your Raleigh dog bite lawyer can investigate to determine who owns the animal. Steps of the investigation may include:
- Reviewing the details of the attack to identify characteristics of the dog, including its breed, color, build, etc.
- Surveying the area where the attack occurred
- Interviewing witnesses to the attack
- Checking local dog registries to see if the owner licensed a dog matching the description of the dog that bit you
Prompt investigation is crucial whether you know the dog owner or not. In three years people can move, witnesses’ memories can fade, and key evidence may be lost.
2. Assessing Your Dog Bite Injuries
If a dog bite breaks the skin or causes significant bleeding, you should go to the emergency room for treatment. This is especially true if you don’t know the dog or its owner.
Dog bites can result in broken bones, injury to soft tissue, and nerve damage. If the dog attacks the face and head, victims may suffer severe scarring and disfigurement. Psychological trauma is often common after a dog bite as well.
Your attorney will review your medical records and consult with your doctors and other experts to understand the full extent of your injuries. Your dog bite claim should account for all of your losses – physical, mental, and emotional.
3. Calculating Compensation in Your Dog Bite Claim
Understanding the nature of your injuries and how they affect your life is crucial for determining how much you can claim in damages for a dog bite injury. You may be entitled to compensation for economic and non-economic losses stemming from the attack.
Economic damages consist of medical bills, lost wages (current and future), and other financial losses. Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate, as they consist of pain and suffering and other losses without a hard-and-fast monetary value.
Trying to account for all of the damages in your case by yourself is difficult. You may even be unaware of losses for which you can be compensated. A knowledgeable dog bite lawyer can determine what you may be able to pursue, and ensure that your claim is filed in time to recover what you deserve.
4. Negotiating with the Insurance Company
Dog bites are typically covered by homeowners or renters insurance. If you know the owner of the dog, your attorney can file a claim with the appropriate insurance company on your behalf. Claims can be filed any time before the statute of limitations is up, but it is always best to take action promptly.
The insurance company may provide a settlement offer that does not adequately cover your losses, or the insurer may deny your claim altogether. In either of these cases, your dog bite lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company with the goal of reaching a fair settlement.
Most dog bite claims are settled out of court without ever going to trial. Working with an experienced lawyer increases the likelihood of a favorable settlement, as your attorney will know what evidence to gather and how to handle insurance company objections.
5. Taking Your Dog Bite Case to Court
The statute of limitations for dog bite claims applies to all aspects of your case. From investigating the attack to filing a claim, all of these steps must be undertaken within three years. This time limit also applies to filing a lawsuit.
If the dog owner’s insurance company refuses to compensate you fairly, taking your case to trial may be necessary to recover the compensation you deserve. Going to court is daunting, and it should not be attempted without an experienced attorney on your side.
Contact a Raleigh Dog Bite Lawyer Today
As you can see, dog bite claims can be complicated. Recovery from an attack can be lengthy, and it is important to focus on taking back your health and well-being. However, you do not want to lose the opportunity to recover compensation that can help you pay your bills, make up the income you lose, and adjust to other changes in your life.
Whitley Law Firm understands the importance of acting quickly on behalf of dog bite victims. With the Whitley Advantage, you can feel confident knowing that our team will investigate your case thoroughly, calculate all of your damages, and push for the best outcome starting day one.
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, please contact Whitley Law Firm by calling (919) 785-9000 today. Our Raleigh dog bite lawyers serve clients in Winston-Salem, New Bern, and other areas of North Carolina. It won’t cost anything to see if we can help.