Written by attorney Christopher Michael Davis

How to Determine the Value of a Dog Bite Case

There is no magic formula or process by which someone can predict with certainty the amount of money that a dog bite case may be worth. About 25 to 30 years ago there was some limited consensus among lawyers and insurance adjustors that a general personal injury claim may be worth three times the amount of medical expenses plus lost wages. But that so-called rule was really just a guideline for predicting how a jury might determine the value of the case. Today no such guideline or consensus exists. There are so many different factors that may influence the value of a claim that it is virtually impossible to create some type of formula that can reliably predict the value of any given case.

There are some differences with dog bite cases compared to your typical personal injury claim, like car accidents and other general negligence claims.

  1. First, because dog bites often involve the laceration, puncturing and tearing of tissue, the existence of a lasting scar or disfigurement is usually present. Although each case is different and highly dependent on the individual facts involved, I can make some general observations about these types of cases when it comes to value. Generally speaking, bites that occur to the face will command a higher settlement value than an injury inflicted on another part of the body. Obviously, a prominent scar that affects a person's appearance will have more impact and value then if the scar is located in a place that is not easily detectable by the public.
  2. Usually, dog bite cases involving permanent scarring or disfigurement to a female victim will command a higher settlement value then if the victim is a male. This is because most people agree that women place much more emphasis and value on their physical appearance as compared to men. But if the male victim can show that his appearance has been significantly damaged or impacted, the claim may also have high value. An example would be if the male victim were a model or other professional who relies heavily on his appearance for his livelihood.

When it comes to evaluating dog bite cases, photographs of the wound are extremely important. The photographs can help demonstrate the severity of the injury and subsequent scarring much better than the cold medical record or chart that merely contains a description from the physician. Thus, a case that involves low medical bills but has photographs showing severe and extensive wounds and/or scarring can command a very high value.

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