While animal attack personal injury claims most commonly involve dogs, there are many other kinds of domesticated and non-domesticated animals that are kept by owners. For this reason, a personal injury claim based on an animal attack can result from physical injuries and emotional damages caused by a violent encounter with any species of animal.
Animal attacks can result in a number of medical and other financial expenses, and may include both immediate and future expenses. Additionally, there are losses that must be considering, including lost earnings or wages and potentially even disability or the loss of life, in the most severe animal attacks.
The liability of an animal owner varies from one jurisdiction to the next and as such, it is crucial the injured party seek legal assistance with their personal injury claim. Animal attack personal injury claims can involve economic or financial losses and non-financial damages. Again, the kinds of damages that can be included in animal attack personal injury cases can vary from one jurisdiction to the next, but may include any or all of the following.
Financial losses that can be included:
- Current and future medical expenses – Current expenses may include the costs of hospital and doctor visits as well as any surgeries, medications or other treatments that are required immediately following the attack. Future expenses can include physical therapy and rehabilitation costs, medical assistance devices, cosmetic or other essential surgery costs, and any other form of future medical care required as a result of injuries suffered in the attack.
- Lost and/or diminished future wages or earnings – If you lose time on the job and wages or earnings as a result of the attack and seeking medical care associated with the attack, then you can include lost earnings in your claim. If the attack caused lasting or permanent disability, you may be able to include future diminished earnings in the case as well. The concept of diminished earnings comes from a claimant’s inability to perform the same work as he or she did prior to the attack. A reduction in earnings capacity may entitle you to additional compensation in your animal attack claim.
- Immediate and ongoing care or assistance expenses – If your injuries were serious enough to cause the need for life care or assistance in performing everyday tasks, like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, bathing, eating, etc, then you may be able to include the expenses for assistance personnel in your claim. Time in an assisted living or nursing care facility and any necessary home modification expenses may also be applicable in your claim.
Non-Financial Damages which may be included:
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress – Compensation can be awarded for the physical pain caused by your injuries, and for any mental anguish or emotional distress you or the family members of the victim experience.
- Punitive damages – If the owner of the animal acted with malice, committed fraud or was otherwise actively involved in the animal attack, such as instances where an owner actually instructs their animal to attack, punitive damages can also be awarded.
- Loss of enjoyment – If your injuries caused you to lose a central quality of your life, you may be able to seek compensation for loss of enjoyment. For instance, if you’re unable to participate in everyday activities, including sports or hobbies you were previously involved in, you can claim loss of enjoyment of life as part of your animal attack personal injury lawsuit.
- Loss of consortium – The spouse of the victim can be compensated for loss of the companionship and support or services the spouse provided prior to the attack.
- Loss of life – Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed if the animal attack victim dies from his/her injuries. Generally speaking, only the spouse or children of a victim can file a wrongful death suit.
Proving your Animal Attack Personal Injury Claim
In order for a personal injury claim based on an animal attack to be successful, there are a number of things you’ll need to prove. The burden of proof requirements can vary from one jurisdiction to the next; however, they may include any or all of the following.
- Defendant responsibility – You must demonstrate the defendant is responsible for the animal that attacked you, either through proving ownership or keeper status.
- Culpable knowledge of animal disposition – You may be required in some jurisdictions to prove the owner or keeper of the animal should have been, or was, aware of the animal’s known or potentially aggressive or vicious disposition. In proving this, you also prove the defendant should have known there was a danger of animal attack occurring.
- Negligence of the defendant – If the owner or keeper of the animal was somehow negligent in his or her care of, or actions toward, the animal, then you will need to prove this. For example, if the owner did not have the animal leashed or enclosed in some way in order to prevent it from reaching other people, then negligence is a factor in your claim.
- Lack of your own liability in the incident – You must show you had no role in causing or inciting the attack. If for instance, you were warned an animal is not always friendly, but you tried to pet the animal anyway and were injured as a result, you may not be entitled to compensation. The same is true if the defendant is able to prove you teased the animal, approached it without permission or despite warnings of potential danger, or otherwise incited or provoked the attack in some way.
Your Animal Attack Personal Injury Case
In order to file a successful animal attack personal injury claim you must prove you were not at fault for the injuries you suffered, that the owner of the animal was somehow at fault for the attack, and that the injuries you suffered or emotional distress you experienced were significant enough to warrant the award of financial compensation or damages. As previously mentioned, the statutes that govern animal attack personal injury cases can vary from one jurisdiction to the next. A personal injury lawyer familiar with animal attack cases and the intricacies of the laws and regulations in your area is your best chance of receiving the damages and other compensation to which you may be entitled.