This article covers four of the basic legal and financial issues that come about when a dog causes injury to a human being.
Iowa law provides what is called strict liability for damages caused by a dog. This can include the dog biting, attacking or attempting to bite a person directly. Also, there is strict liability if a dog for example chases after another domestic animal like a horse causing injuries. These laws are specifically described in Iowa Code Section 351.28 which reads as follows:
The owner of a dog shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog, when the dog is caught in the action of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal, or the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person, except when the party damaged is doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury. This section does not apply to damage done by a dog affected with hydrophobia unless the owner of the dog had reasonable grounds to know that the dog was afflicted with hydrophobia and by reasonable effort might have prevented the injury.
The only exception to the strict liability provision is if someone is doing an unlawful act like breaking into your home when the dog bites or if the dog had rabies also know as hydrophobia. This law is important to know whether you own dogs or have been injured because of a dog.
Most dog injury cases are covered by the homeowners or renter's insurance of the dog owner. Unfortunately, many dog owners do not have this type of insurance and many dog injury cases involve dogs who are not covered under insurance. If there is no insurance, then your other option is to try to recover from the dog owner’s assets. However, it can be difficult to recover anything if there is no insurance because Iowa law gives exemptions such as you cannot take a persons home. Also, there is a very real possibility that any judgment you obtain will be dismissed if the dog owner files for bankruptcy.
There are several different types of damages available if a dog causes injuries to your or your child. The first one is past and future medical expenses required because of the injuries. Often, these include the cost of future plastic or reconstructive surgery to deal with the scarring caused by the dog. Lost wages can also be recovered for the injured person. There are also quality of life damages available such as pain and suffering. If there is scaring or other disfigurement then damages are available for the loss of full body and mind. Finally, depending upon the severity of the injuries, loss of consortium damages which basically means compensation for the loss of relationship that a parent sustains for a child and vice-versa.
Most dog bite and attack cases we see happen to children. If the damages to a minor child are significant and the settlement is more than $25,000 then a Conservatorship will need to be established for the benefit of the minor child. It is possible to open a Conservatorship without an attorney, but keep in mind that there are specific legal requirements and you could make a costly mistake if you do not follow them. Also, it is always best to talk to an attorney about the value of the dog bite case before agreeing to any settlement with the insurance company. In fact, even a verbal agreement with the insurance company could be considered binding so be very careful about what you say to the insurance adjustor.
These are just 4 of many things that you should know if you or a loved one has been injured because of a dog. The above is not legal advice as each case is different and you should consult with an attorney concerning the specific facts in your case.
To learn more including 5 Insider Secrets to Not Get Bitten by Your Case then request my new book called "Iowa Consumer’s Guide to Dog Bites" which is available to you at no cost, risk or obligation by visiting http://www.DogBiteBook.com or by calling 800-707-2552 ext. 513 (24 hour recorded message). We offer our book at no costs because since 1997, I have seen far too many Iowans injured by dogs make costly mistakes.