Dog attacks can be vicious and traumatizing. In some cases, an injured party can be permanently disfigured and even suffer emotional trauma for the rest of his or her life. While most dog bite cases involve compensatory damages, there are instances where a dog bite case could involve punitive damages.
Punitive damages are an award of money against the defendant in a dog bite case that is intended to punish the owner or keeper of the dog directly. It is meant to set an example to the public, to ensure that this type of accident does not occur again. Punitive damages in dog bite claims are designed to punish the dog owner for outrageous conduct in regards to the dog. For a case to qualify for punitive damages, malicious actions or a blatant disregard for the health and safety of the public are often required – which may be difficult to prove in a dog attack.
Grounds Required for Punitive Damages
In order to request punitive damages in a dog bite case, you will need to prove that:
- The injury was intentional. You must prove that the defendant purposely inflicted injury via the dog. For example, if the owner instructed the dog to attack you and cause your injuries.
- The owner was aware that the dog posed a significant health and safety risk to the public, and ignored that risk. This could involve knowing that the dog has attacked people before, but allowed the dog to run free in public anyway.
- The injury to the plaintiff was committed willfully or via gross negligence.
In these types of cases, there are numerous terms that will be assessed to determine if a dog bite case qualifies for punitive damages. Some of those terms include:
- Malice – Meaning that the conduct was intentional and designed to cause injury to the defendant.
- Oppression – Meaning that the conduct was despicable and cruel, and was a blatant disregard for the victims’ rights.
Another scenario that could lead to punitive damages is where the victim can seek damages because the dog had a history of biting people, and had done so numerous times in the past. Or, if the dog is already labeled as a “dangerous dog,” but is able to attack someone again.
Homeowners’ insurance policies will cover all normal damages in a dog bite attack case, but they will not pay for punitive damages. Therefore, a defendant will have to pay those damages out of his or her own pocket – which is not always possible, given the financial situation of defendants. Therefore, an attorney will consider if punitive damages are even possible to collect upon when requesting them in a civil case.
Call an Experienced Dog Bite Attorney
If you have been seriously injured or a loved one was attacked by a vicious dog, contact me, Jeffrey H. Penneys for a free consultation. I can assess your case and determine if it qualifies for punitive or compensatory damages. Schedule your consultation now by calling my office at 215-987-3550, or my cell phone at 215-771-0430, or fill out my online contact form with your legal questions.