Child Victims of Dog Bites
A dog bite victim’s age is an important factor to consider when weighing your legal options after a dog bite. If the dog bite victim is a child, there are likely several important legal issues that you, as a parent, will need to consider, including setting aside money for future cosmetic procedures to repair scarring from the dog bite and insuring that the proceeds of any jury verdict or insurance settlement are available for your child once your child reaches an age of maturity.
These issues should be quite familiar to any lawyer who handles dog bite cases because, according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data, children are three hundred percent more likely to be bitten by a dog than adults are. Boys aged 5 to 9 are the highest-risk group for dog bites.
In addition, because children are shorter than adults, they are more likely to suffer dog bites on their faces, necks or heads. Indeed, nearly three-quarters of dog bite injuries suffered by individuals younger than 10 years old are facial. Facial dog bites are often the most serious kind of dog bite, because, in addition, to inflicting eye injuries, facial dog bites often leave prominent scarring that parents want to have treated with cosmetic surgery. However, since most health insurance policies do not cover cosmetic surgeries, the cost of any cosmetic procedures must be recovered from the dog owner’s assets or the dog owner’s home owner’s insurance policy.
A lawyer representing your child in a dog bite case should consult with doctors and other experts to determine the reasonable future medical expenses that will be incurred to treat any scarring or disfigurement caused by the dog bite. Given the spiraling costs of health care, a dog bite case should only be resolved by your lawyer once it is certain that the settlement will be sufficient to cover any and all future medical expenses, since most likely those medical expenses will be borne out of pocket.
In addition to insuring that the proceeds of any settlement are sufficient to cover your child’s future medical expenses, a lawyer in a dog bite case with a child victim should also insure that the child is compensated for her physical pain and suffering and emotional distress and that the money paid to compensate the child for her psychological injuries is available to her once she reaches the age of maturity. A common method of insuring this end is to purchase an annuity for the child’s benefit that begins payments at age 18 or 21. There may be certain tax advantages to structuring a settlement in this way.
Dog bite cases involving child victims present many issues for which you and your lawyer should be prepared. Consulting a lawyer in the early going is the best way to insure that your child’s interests are best served.