Did you know that more than half of all dog bite victims are young children, under the age of 12? Indeed, some reports say that dog bites result in more emergency room visits for young children than broken bones. Clients sometimes ask are child dog bite cases worth more than when an adult is bitten. Each case is different, but the damages suffered by a child, and the family, can often be substantial.
Physical dog bite injuries to children are usually serious
It is unfortunate, but most dog bites to children are to the head and neck area. These types of injuries are obviously very serious, often requiring stitches. Children must also endure painful rabies shots as a protective measure. Many bite injuries to children even require plastic surgery.
Long-lasting mental trauma can also result in children
In addition, children are often more likely to suffer from the mental trauma of a dog attack for many years, even into adulthood. In some more serious cases, child victims suffer post traumatic stress disorder, requiring counseling. Of course, the worst case is a fatal dog attack. The value of each of these cases can only be determined from consideration of the facts surrounding the incident.
The Affirmative Defense of Provocation
As with any dog bite case, the owner can assert as a defense that the dog was provoked. Provocation typically results from someone taunting a dog, pulling its tail or hitting the dog. This type of behavior can trigger an aggressive reaction in many dogs. The truth is, young children are more likely to engage in this type of conduct, without realizing the consequences.
When a dog attacks a child, the owner will usually assert the affirmative defense of provocation. If this defense is legitimate, it can preclude recovery completely. The success of the defense depends, in part, on the age of the child. Courts typically find that particularly young children have no intent to provoke a dog and do not understand that unintended provocation could result in an attack.
Differences in dog bite damages for child victims
Damages refer to the effects of an injury on a victim. They typically include medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering. However, the damages that can be recovered by child victims are usually different from those of adults. One reason is because children often have a more difficult time recovering from the same injuries as adults.
For instance, a dog bite to the face, leaving a scar, will last a lifetime and subject the child to embarrassment more than it would an adult. This type of injury could have a lasting emotional effect as well, lowering the child’s self-esteem, possibly requiring counseling.
The possibility of punitive damages
In cases involving especially vulnerable children, punitive damages may also be appropriate. A jury may determine that the dog owner’s conduct showed a “reckless disregard for the safety” of the child. In those cases, the court may award punitive damages, meant to punish the owner, which will result in a much higher award of damages. As with most legal issues, the value of the case will always depend on the specific circumstances.
If you have questions regarding children and dog bites, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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