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Dog Bites to Children

If your child has been attacked or bitten by a dog, it can be one of the most traumatic things a child, and parent, can go through. The injuries to the child may be very severe and have long-lasting impacts to the child’s physical wellbeing as well as their emotional and psychological wellbeing. There are, fortunately, things that The Jackman Law Firm can do to help with your child’s dog bite case.

Who Will Pay My Children’s Medical Bills After a Dog Bite?

After your child’s dog bite or dog attack, once you have made sure your child is safe and on the road to recovery, you might be wondering how their bills are going to be paid. This will become especially pressing once the bills are coming in, and if they aren’t being paid, there’s a chance they will go into collections. Given this headache, which will negatively impact your credit, you must find out if there is insurance involved and how insurance can pay these medical bills.

First, you need to find out if the dog’s owner has homeowner’s insurance. If they are renters, you need to find out if they have a renter’s policy. If the dog bite attack took place at a business, you’ll need to find out the same thing. Fortunately, most homeowners and businesses have some kind of insurance policy. Some renters have insurance and others do not. It’s not quite as certain with a renter’s insurance police as to whether they will have insurance.

Even if the dog’s owner or the business where the dog bite took place has insurance, it is not the law that the insurance company has to pay the medical bills. Legally, in Washington State, they could argue that the treatment your son or daughter received was not necessary, related, or caused by the dog bite, as foolish and outlandish as that may seem.

If that is the case, this is what needs to happen. You need to have your health insurance company pay the bills. Then you need to demand that the insurance company for the dog’s owner pay the bills. If they don’t, file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner or the business where the attack took place. If you prevail, then through a legal concept called subrogation, your health insurance company is allowed to recover the medical bills that they paid on your child’s behalf. So in a sense, the insurance companies will be paying each other.

Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Child After a Dog Bite

Filing a lawsuit on behalf of your child may sound like a daunting proposition. It is important to understand the legalities behind this process. Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to represent themselves in court. Even if they are seventeen and very mature, it is a very clear rule. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that the court will have to appoint what is called a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL).

Every county is different in terms of how a GAL is appointed. Some counties have a list that they use, so the county pays for it, which is how it’s done in King County, whereas other counties make you pay for the GAL. The GAL is oftentimes an attorney who does this kind of work consistently, but other times the GAL is not an attorney. In any case, the role of the GAL is to speak on behalf of the child in court and represent the child’s best interests. This becomes especially important when the case wraps up and a settlement is reached because the GAL will need to meet with you, the parent, speak with the child, assuming they are able, and your attorney to make sure the settlement is fair and reasonable and everyone is on the same page. From there, the GAL will appear in court and tell the judge that the case should be settled and the funds will be disbursed.

The funds from a settlement for a child are placed in a blocked account that no one can reach, not even the parent, until the child turns 18, though there are cases where the money can be placed in an account until an even older age, such as 21.

Normally, the funds are placed in a simple savings account, but again, this could be negotiated between the parent and the GAL and the funds could be placed in a higher-interest bearing investment vehicle, such as a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund. This will have to be decided between you, the parent, and the GAL.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Dog If You Have Children

While most dogs interact wonderfully well with children, there are some instances obviously where dogs do not, and it can be hard to predict when this will occur. These are some rules of thumb to keep in mind when you have a child, especially a young child, and dog who interact with one another.

Be mindful of a dog that has a history of aggression, assuming you purchase a dog from a rescue or shelter. It is a good idea to talk to a breeder or a dog’s owner, if you’re adopting it, to see if the dog or the dog’s parents have a history of biting or behaving aggressively. It’s also a good idea to spray or neuter the dog. Making sure your child understands not to interact with the dog while the dog is eating or drinking is a good idea.

Common Injuries to Children from Dog Bites and Attacks

When a dog attacks a child, the results can be devastating, even deadly, depending on the severity of the attack. The child could suffer serious injuries, including scarring, puncture wounds to the skin, a loss of sensation or numbness to the area that was bitten, infections, a permanent sensation of tingling, along with serious emotional or psychological trauma that could take years to go away, assuming it ever does.

These injuries are not going to just heal on their own. Seeing the right kind of specialist is often important. Pediatric doctors and surgeons are very important to get to. Just as important is seeing the appropriate counselor or mental health therapist to treat the mental or emotional anguish that your child may be going through. These kinds of attacks can often be surprising and permanently upsetting to a child.

In addition, some dog attacks do not result in bites. The attack could involve the dog, especially a larger breed, knocking a child down and causing injuries to the child’s neck, back or shoulders, or the dog dragging the child by his or her clothes once the child is knocked down. These injuries may be very different than those sustained in a dog bite but just as significant.

Most Common Breeds of Dog Attacks to Children

While in theory any dog could attack a child, there are certain breeds that are, statistically-speaking, more likely than others to attack and bite children. The results may surprise you. Of all attacks on children, the most likely breed to attack or bite is the Labrador Retriever. 13% of all bites and attacks are caused by them. Next in order are:

  • Pit bulls at 8.4%
  • German shepherds at 7.4%
  • Rottweilers at 3.9%
  • Chows at 3.5%

Of all the dog breeds, the breeds that have the most powerful bite, in the above-listed of dog breeds, are Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds. These dogs, when they attack, can cause the most significant damage to children given their powerful bites. While dog bites can cause the most significant and lasting damage, dog attacks can take other forms as well, including when a dog jumps on a child or knocks the child down or drags the child around, which can result in injuries to a child as well.

How The Jackman Law Firm Can Help

After your child has been attacked or bitten by a dog, the Jackman Law Firm can help get your child the financial compensation your child needs. In order to prevail on a case involving a dog bite to a child, you first must establish that your child was fault-free.

This is not normally a problem because dogs do not, as some people may say, get one free bite. These cases are called “strict liability,” meaning if the dog bites, the owner is held accountable. Sometimes, however, an insurance company or their lawyer will allege that your child somehow provoked the attack. We can help you overcome this argument.

Once the liability part of the case is established, the next part of the case that must be established is the level of your child’s damages, meaning what, if anything, is owed on your child’s case. These are the most common damages that, legally speaking, your child can recover:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills and future medical bills
  • Out of pocket expenses

It is important to understand that the settlement, if one is reached with the dog’s owner’s insurance company, will be for one lump sum amount of money, but those are the categories of damages that break down the settlement. We have a long and extensive history of negotiating with insurance companies for homeowners to receive large settlements for our clients. If negotiations do not go well, though, we have the resources and know-how to go forward to court and obtain a large verdict on your case, one that is deserving of what your child has gone through from the dog bite or dog attack.

Please call us for a free consultation to discuss your case.

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