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We Handle Dog Bite Cases

Our family will help yours deal with the aftermath of an animal attack

Dog bites are, in many ways, some of the most challenging cases we handle at Recht Law. Large dogs have powerful jaws that can break bones. And even smaller dogs can inflict serious injuries. Too often, the victims are children. The ragged edges and deep cuts of a dog bite can leave permanent physical scars. And then there's the emotional trauma, which can be profound.

Worst of all is that the owner of the dog is often a neighbor, close friend or family member. The last thing you may want to do in that situation is to get a dog bite lawyer involved. Even so, you have rights under the law, and you need an attorney to protect those rights.

Understand that we're not like many other law firms. We are a family of attorneys, and Recht Law has been serving families throughout the Weirton-Steubenville area since 1952. We understand how to handle complex dog bite cases with care and compassion. In most cases, we can handle your claim by working directly with the dog owner's insurance company. That means you can get the compensation you need to pay for treatment for your injuries without harming your relationship with a friend or relative.

Cases involving dog bites are about more than money. They're about creating an incentive for dog owners to keep their pets properly restrained for everyone's safety - and they're about making you or your child whole again after the attack. Our attorneys have helped many victims pay for reconstructive surgery and other procedures to minimize scarring and eliminate the long-term consequences of the injury.

If you've been attacked by a dog, don't wait for your personal injury claim to resolve itself. Reach out to Recht right away to schedule your free case evaluation. Call us toll-free at 1 (877) 321-7324.

How You Can Avoid Dog Bites

Taking certain steps can reduce the chances of being bitten by a dog. Follow these safety tips to protect yourself and your children from serious injury.

  • Never leave a baby or small child with a dog unattended. Even a dog that knows and loves children can be triggered by the child's actions - a child may grab the dog's tail, for instance, or throw an object. That's why an adult should always supervise.
  • If you feel threatened, don't take any action that will provoke the dog. Keep your voice level if you must speak at all; yelling may be a trigger. Likewise, if you need to move, don't make any sudden movements; instead, face the dog with your eyes down and slowly back away. If you fall, wrap your arms around your head to protect your face.
  • When you see an unfamiliar or confined dog, you should avoid making contact. The dog may become aggressive.
  • Never approach or pass a dog while running. You may unintentionally startle or threaten them. When you do approach, always allow the dog to sniff your hand before you touch them.

Remember that if you take actions that could be construed as provoking the attack, your damages in a potential lawsuit could be reduced under the legal principle of comparative negligence.

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Keep Your Dog From Injuring Others

Dog bites can be extremely dangerous and expose you to significant legal liability. Follow these tips to keep your dog under control:

  • Keep an enclosed area. Dogs love to romp around off the leash, but they need to do it in a fenced-in area.
  • Consider obedience training. This will help your dog get along with other people.
  • Take care of your dog's health. Keep your dog's vaccinations up to date and regularly go to the vet for checkups. A sick dog may be more anxious or defensive around people. Remember that spaying or neutering will help make your dog more obedient.
  • Watch interactions with people. Don't allow your dog to "play rough" with people, even if it's only with you. This can set a dangerous precedent.
  • Supervise interactions with children. Young children often do not know how to play appropriately with or near a dog. Make sure you supervise every interaction with young children and babies, even if your dog already knows them.

Under West Virginia law, if your dog is not allowed to roam free, you are only liable for a bite if your dog has a previous history of aggressive behavior or if you can be shown to be negligent. Taking appropriate steps will help keep your friends and family safe - and protect you from legal liability for a bite.

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What to Do When Attacked by a Dog

A dog attack is a painful and traumatic experience. Knowing what to do in the immediate aftermath can make all the difference.

  • Safety should be your first priority. Make sure you are not in danger of being attacked again.
  • Identify the dog that bit you. If you don't know what dog was responsible for the attack, you will not be able to collect damages from the owner.
  • Take pictures if you can. Any visible injuries need to be documented immediately. Take a picture of the attacking dog, too, but only if doing so doesn't put you in danger of being attacked again.
  • Get immediate medical help. Dog bites can be very dangerous due to infection and other risks. You need to be seen by a doctor right away. Tell your healthcare provider that you were attacked by a dog and provide as much information as possible.
  • Collect contact information. You need a name, address and phone number for the dog's owner, the person who was responsible for the animal at the time of the attack, and anyone who witnessed the attack.
  • Contact the police. In West Virginia, anyone who is bitten by a domesticated animal is required by law to report the attack to their local police department. The police and other government agencies will conduct their own investigation.
  • Reach out to Recht Law. While the police will investigate the dog attack, they aren't on your side. We are. Call us as soon as possible to protect your legal rights and work on getting the compensation you need.

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Dog Bite Laws in West Virginia

West Virginia uses a limited statute for dog bites under Code of West Virginia, section 19-20-13. If an owner allows the dog to roam "at large," he or she is strictly liable for any damage the dog inflicts on people or property. In other words, if you were attacked by a dog that was allowed to roam, you do not need to prove negligence on the part of the owner to collect damages (financial compensation) for your injury.

In cases where the dog was secured on the owner's property rather than roaming at large, the victim must prove negligence on the owner's or keeper's part. This is where the so-called "one bite rule" comes into play. The owner may be held liable if he or she had reason to know that the dog had violent tendencies - for instance, if the dog had previously bitten someone or exhibited other dangerous conduct. Owners can also be held liable if they are negligent in other ways or if they violate local public safety laws.

The doctrine of comparative negligence can also be applied in dog bite cases, usually when the bite is provoked. For instance, if a court rules that you were 30 percent at fault for your injury because you took action to provoke the dog, your award would be reduced by 30 percent. Note that if the victim is a child under the age of 7, comparative negligence does not apply because, under West Virginia law, a child under 7 cannot be negligent. Likewise, if the victim is between 7 and 14, there is a presumption that he or she is not capable of negligence, although this can be overcome if there is evidence suggesting that the child knew he or she was acting unreasonably.

Note that Ohio and Pennsylvania have their own dog bite statutes. Ohio is a strict liability state for dog bites, which means the owner, harborer or keeper of a dog can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog even if he or she was not negligent. Under Pennsylvania law, dog owners are strictly liable when the dog cause a severe injury - defined as either a broken bone or lacerations that require multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery. A non-severely injured victim can likewise sue for damages under the state's Dog Law, but the owner's liability is limited to medical expenses; for full compensation, the victim must prove negligence on the part of the owner.

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Compensation For Your Dog Attack

Dog bites can be devastating, especially if the face or neck is bitten. Some of the types of compensation we may recover in a dog bite case include:

  • Medical bills. Emergency medical treatment is often needed after a dog bite, and visits to the ER can be exceptionally expensive. If the bite becomes infected and requires intensive care or if surgery is needed, the cost of medical bills can be very high.
  • Lost wages. If you are unable to work for a time because of your injury, you can sue for compensation for that lost income. This is true even if you have paid sick time or other means of getting payment for that time off.
  • Pain and suffering. Even a small dog can inflict a significant amount of pain, depending on the location and depth of the bite.
  • Emotional distress. Being attacked by a dog is a highly traumatic experience, especially for children. Damages may be sought to pay for long-term therapy and other expenses to cope with the trauma.
  • Future medical expenses. Often, dog bites cause significant scarring and other damage to the skin. A settlement or verdict in your favor may pay for skin grafts and other reconstructive procedures to minimize that scarring.

It's critically important to understand the long-term cost of a dog bite instead of accepting a low-ball offer from an insurance company. That's why we encourage you to complete your medical treatment before even entertaining an offer. And that's why we urge you to reach out to Recht Law as soon as possible after the attack. We've helped many dog bite victims work out the true cost of their injuries and fight for the compensation they need to pay for the entire cost.

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How Insurance Companies Look At Dog Bites

Generally speaking, dog bites are covered under the homeowner's insurance policy held by the owner of the dog. If the owner has a dog of an attack-prone breed, he or she will likely carry a special policy or rider that covers dog attacks.

Immediately after a dog bite, the homeowner's insurance company may offer you a quick "low-ball" settlement. We encourage you not to accept this settlement. Dog bites can cause long-term damage, and the overall cost of an attack may exceed the amount the insurance company offers you by quite a lot. Once you have accepted a settlement, you cannot sue for additional damages.

Instead, it's best to seek medical treatment right away and wait until you have made a full recovery to settle with the insurance company. Moreover, we encourage you to contact us right away to deal with the insurance on your behalf. Our experienced attorneys can help you understand the full cost of the dog attack and collect all the compensation you need.

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