Personal Injury Law Firm
DEVASTATING LOSSES CALL FOR EXCEPTIONAL LITIGATORS
Our team of New Hampshire dog bite lawyers explain that NH is a strict liability dog-bite jurisdiction. Section 466:19 Liability of Owner or Keeper. (state.nh.us); Bohan v. Ritzo, 141 NH 210 (1996). The plaintiff does not need to prove that the owner was negligent. He also doesn’t need to prove the dog was vicious, or bit someone in the past. The only requirement that needs to be established is that the plaintiff was injured by another individual’s dog. A plaintiff can also recover even if he was indirectly injured by another individual’s dog. If a dog came rushing at a bicyclist who got scared and crashed, that would be actionable. New Hampshire comparative fault rule does not apply to a dog bite case. Section 507:7-e Apportionment of Damages. (state.nh.us)
The thrust of the damages in most dog bite cases is permanent scaring. If a scar remains in excess of one year, most plastic surgeons will opine that the scar is permanent. The value that an insurance adjuster places on a scar is subjective. There are certain factors that come into play. Such as the location of the scar, the size of the scar, and the age of the plaintiff. Of course, a facial scar is going to be more valuable than a scar that is concealed under clothing.
On sizeable cases, our dog bite lawyers will conduct focus groups. Participants will review photographs and deliberate on the value of a scar like they were real jurors. We can provide those anonymous results to the insurance company as leverage in a settlement negotiation.
Our dog bite lawyers have been fortunate to settle several dog bite cases in the $300,000 – $400,000 range. The insurance coverage on a dog bite case flows through the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. If the dog owner is a renter, sometimes they carry rental insurance that would cover dog bite injuries. If there is no renter’s insurance, in rare cases, we have been able to obtain compensation from the landlord.
Here is an example of those circumstances. The dog owner lived in a rental community that had a policy against tenants owning pit bulls. The tenant owned a pit bull and walked it around the common outdoor areas of the complex. The pit bull attacked one of the neighbors we represented. While the dog owner had no insurance, we were able to negotiate with the landlord. The theory was they didn’t enforce their own policies. The strict liability aspect of the dog bite statute did not apply because the landlord was not the dog owner. Nonetheless, we were able to establish negligence.
Another nuance we have seen in dog bite cases is recovery for the parent who witnessed their child being attacked. According to the Bystander Rule, the NH Supreme Court has held “that a mother and a father who witness or contemporaneously sensorially perceive a serious injury to their child may recover if they suffer serious mental and emotional harm that is accompanied by objective physical symptoms.” Corso v. Merrill, 119 NH 647, 659 (1979). In this case, the father who came to his son’s rescue was able to recover because he developed severe migraines. The traumatic experience caused him to get neurological care shortly after the attack. The strict liability statute did not apply to the bystander claim. However, we were able to establish negligence because the dog was unleashed.
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