How Long After a Dog Attack Can You Sue?

March 7, 2023 | David Abels
How Long After a Dog Attack Can You Sue?

We lovingly refer to dogs as man’s best friend, but unfortunately, some dogs can quickly become agitated and attack people.

If you experience a dog attack that results in serious injury, you have limited time to take action. Consult with a dog bite lawyer immediately after the incident for support and guidance. You do not need to wait a specific time before taking legal action. 

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation

What Is a Dog Attack Lawsuit?

A dog attack lawsuit is the legal action you take against a responsible dog owner for a dog bite. Dog bite claims fall under the area of personal injury.

Personal injury law protects victims who have suffered harm at the hands of another or because of another.

Dog bites are common, as approximately 4.5 million dog attacks occur every year in the United States, and about one in five of these dog bites require medical attention. Some dog bites injuries can disfigure or change people’s lives.

When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you seek justice from the liable party but also monetary recovery for your injuries and other losses related to your harm.

Dog bite lawsuits are unique, as they involve animals and not just human behavior. They can be tricky to navigate alone, but a skilled lawyer with experience in dog attack cases can help you obtain a favorable result. 

What You Need to Prove in Your Dog Bite Suit?

In any civil lawsuit, you must prove the defendant is liable for your injuries and losses. Therefore, there are certain details you’ll need to establish to pursue compensation successfully.

The exact details of what you need to prove will depend on the state where you live and how they handle dog bite cases. 

One-Bite Statutes

When your state follows the one-bite rule, you can only hold the dog’s owner responsible if they knew or reasonably should have known that their dog was dangerous and, therefore, prone to biting. This is the common law rule.

The dog does not necessarily have to have a violent past of biting or attacking people for the owner to have known the dog might hurt others.

Instead, certain behaviors can reasonably indicate a dangerous dog, including:

  • Growling or barking at people
  • Chasing people
  • Fighting with other dogs
  • Jumping on people

If it is true the dog owner did not have any idea their dog might be dangerous, it can be challenging to pursue compensation for your dog bite case. However, do not let that deter you from seeking legal counsel. An attorney can craft a legal strategy to prove the owner was still negligent to get you the compensation you deserve. 

Strict Liability Statutes

Strict liability has replaced the common law one-bite rule in many states. Instead of being lenient with dog owners, strict liability holds owners strictly liable if their dog bites or attacks someone, period.

When your state operates under strict liability, there is no need to prove the dog owner knew or should have known of their dog’s dangerous tendencies. Instead, all you need to show is that the dog attacked you unprovoked, and you suffered injuries and other related losses. 

Liability for Dog Attacks

Liability for dog attacks is fairly straight and simple. In most cases, the dog owner is legally responsible to you for their dog’s actions that caused you harm.

However, some states allow the dog’s caretaker to be liable if the dog’s owner was not watching the dog at the time of the incident. Additionally, the dog owner’s landlord can also be at-fault if they know their tenant’s dog is potentially dangerous and prone to attack.

A dog bite lawyer can provide better guidance regarding who can be responsible and work with you to hold that party liable. 

Damages for Dog Bite Cases

If you’ve suffered injuries due to a dog attack, this usually begins a domino effect of other losses, namely financial losses. This is one of the primary reasons pursuing compensation is so important for victims of dog bites. Without monetary recovery, you will have to shoulder the financial burden entirely on your own.

The exact type and amount of damages you’re entitled to receive entirely depends on the circumstances surrounding your case.

You can pursue damages for:

  • Medical expenses for both past and future needs
  • Lost wages
  • Reduction in your ability to earn income
  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Disability

Several factors play a role in determining the value of your case, like:

  • The type and severity of your injuries
  • The total amount of your medical bills
  • Whether your injuries impact your quality of life
  • Whether you’ll require medical care in the future
  • How your injuries affect your income and ability to earn a living
  • Whether you’ll have permanent scarring or a disability
  • Whether you’ve suffered mental or emotional trauma
  • Any other monetary or non-monetary losses you suffer as a result of the dog attack

Your dog attack lawyer can examine the details of your dog bite and case to determine how much your case is worth, and, therefore, how much compensation you can pursue. Having a better understanding of the value of your claim can significantly help ensure you receive the best possible outcome for your situation. 

Is Suing After a Dog Attack Necessary?

Lawyer for Dog Bite in Chicago

Like many other injury cases, filing a lawsuit after a dog attack may not be entirely necessary. There may be other avenues to receive monetary recovery for the harm suffered.

When you pursue compensation from the dog owner, and the attack occurs at their home, you can file an insurance claim through their homeowner’s insurance.

Homeowner’s insurance protects the home’s owner in case of a natural disaster or event involving the insured home. Some homeowners’ insurance policies allow for financial protection in case of an incident with the homeowner’s dog. However, not all policies provide coverage for this type of event, so it’s important to look into the dog owner’s policy.

Additionally, if the dog’s owner is not a homeowner but rather a renter, their renter’s insurance may financially cover the dog attack. Still, like homeowner’s insurance, the dog owner’s renter’s policy may not cover dog bites, so examining the policy is critical.

If you can file a claim through either homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you can expect it to go similar to other insurance claims, like those for vehicle collisions. The insurance company will review your claim, conduct its investigation, and determine whether to approve or deny your claim.

If the insurance company approves your claim and you can negotiate a fair settlement with them, you’ll receive your money without ever having to file a lawsuit.

Regardless of whether you can file an insurance claim, consult with a dog bite lawyer. It’s great when insurance claims run smoothly, and you can settle quickly for a favorable amount, but it’s not always that easy. Your lawyer often needs to negotiate for a higher settlement on your behalf to get you a fair outcome.

You may still file a lawsuit for a dog bite under certain circumstances. If the dog owner’s insurance doesn’t cover dog bites, you’ll need to file a suit against the owner to recover for your harm. Additionally, if the insurance company refuses to settle for an amount that is fair to you, your attorney can proceed with taking legal action. 

How Much Time Do You Have to File a Lawsuit After a Dog Attack?

One of the most critical details to remember when filing a lawsuit is that you don’t have unlimited time to do so. Statutes of limitations impose strict time limits to file lawsuits in civil cases.

While it might seem unfair to restrict the time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit, these statutes exist for several reasons. Generally, these laws protect potential defendants from unfair lawsuits. Evidence can be lost, damaged, or unretrievable as the years go by. Also, party and witness memories can fade.

Every state imposes a different statute of limitations on dog bite cases. Usually, you’ll have one to six years to file your lawsuit, although the average is two to four years. The statute begins to run the moment the dog attack occurs.

You need a lawyer who knows how long you have to file a lawsuit in your state. A dog bite lawyer can give you this information and other pertinent legal advice. The quicker you consult with a lawyer, the sooner you’ll begin working on your case and avoid any potential headaches. 

Consequences of Missing the Lawsuit Deadline

When the statute of limitations expires, you may still have the opportunity to file your lawsuit in court. However, it is highly unlikely to be successful.

Once the opposing party, either the insurance company or the dog owner, notices time has run out, they’ll bring this to the attention of the court. The court will then formally dismiss your case. When your case gets dismissed, you cannot file again or pursue any legal remedies for your injuries.

This is only one of the reasons it’s crucial to seek legal counsel as soon as possible after a dog bite. You may not ever have to worry about the statute of limitations if you can settle with the insurance company before filing a lawsuit, but it is still nice to have plenty of time to file your suit if necessary. 

Pausing the Time Clock

In some limited situations, you may have the opportunity to pause or toll the statute of limitations. Tolling the statute allows you more time to file your lawsuit.

Situations that allow for tolling depend on your state.

However, some common reasons you may toll the statute of limitations include:

  • You were under 18 at the time of the incident: You cannot file a suit on your own when you’re under the age of majority or 18. So, for example, if you’re 15 at the time of the dog bite, you may have the chance to stop the time clock from beginning to run until the day you turn 18. Then, you have x number of years from your 18th birthday (depending on your state’s statute) to file your dog attack lawsuit.
  • The dog owner leaves the state after the incident: If the dog owner leaves the state before you file your lawsuit, you can toll the statute until they return.

A dog bite lawyer can indicate whether your case is eligible for tolling and how long you can pause the statute of limitations for your claim. 

After a Dog Bite, Act Quickly

If you sustain injuries in a dog bite, you have limited time.

Therefore, these steps can help get your case moving quickly:

  • Call 911: If you suffer serious injuries after a dog attack, immediately call 911 and request medical aid.
  • Get medical attention: When your injuries are serious enough, emergency medical technicians can render aid at the scene. However, it’s still essential you see a healthcare provider for further diagnosis and treatment.
  • Consult a dog bite attorney: After you’ve put your health and safety first, schedule a consultation with a dog bite lawyer. Depending on your state, you may need to take additional steps to report the dog bite to governmental authorities, so your attorney can help you fulfill any requirements before proceeding to file a claim.
  • Follow through with medical treatment: Not only is it important to get medical care right after the incident but also to complete treatment. Medical treatment is crucial to your health and recovery, but also to your case.

Once you hire a dog bite lawyer, you can rely on them to guide you from beginning to end as they represent you and work toward a favorable outcome. 

Speak to a Dog Bite Lawyer Right Away

Gary Annes, Dog Bite Attorney near Chicago, IL area
 Gary Annes Dog Bite Lawyer in Chicago

After a dog bite, do not waste time. Schedule an initial meeting with a dog bite attorney in Chicago as soon as possible to begin working on your case.

An experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer can handle your case promptly and avoid any roadblocks to compensation.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

David Abels Author Image

David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

Author's Bio

You Might Be Also Interested In