- The amount of time it takes to reach a settlement agreement and receive compensation in dog bite claims depends on factors such as the types of injuries sustained, medical expenses, and if negligence is obvious.
- Collecting evidence that proves liability and presenting it early to the insurance company will speed up the compensation process.
- Insurance carriers are unlikely to offer a reasonable settlement before the extent of your injuries and expenses are known, so accepting a quick payment may prevent you from receiving full compensation.
- In most cases, you will get compensation within 30 days after a settlement agreement or trial verdict.
Dog attacks are a widespread occurrence in Georgia and often result in life-changing physical and emotional trauma for victims. The devastating effects of dog bites can include a variety of financial costs, such as medical expenses and lost wages, and nonfinancial costs, such as pain and suffering and diminished quality of life.
Recovering these costs from the dog owner or their insurance company is a major concern for victims, and several factors may impact how long it takes to get compensated.
Most dog bite cases are settled without a lawsuit being filed, which usually means quicker compensation. If the victim must file a legal claim, it may still be settled before reaching trial; however, compensation typically takes longer in cases involving lawsuits for multiple reasons.
Being attacked by a dog is a harrowing experience, but knowing how long it may take to receive compensation can provide some comfort for victims. This guide will explain the factors that determine how soon you can expect to receive compensation after a dog attack.
Compensation Timelines for Dog Bites Vary; Here’s Why
When it comes to dog attacks, no two situations are exactly alike. Differences in physical injuries, medical expenses, and negligence mean that the time frame for getting compensation varies from case to case.
In addition, the insurance company plays a role in determining how quickly a settlement is reached and when a victim is paid.
Ideally, the victim could rely on getting compensation within a certain time after their attack. Unfortunately, however, there is no way to predict how long this will take. Some cases are settled in a matter of weeks or months, while others may take years to resolve.
Despite this variation, there are common trends in dog bite cases that make it easier for victims to estimate how long it may take to reach a settlement and get compensation.
Factors That Influence How Long Dog Bite Claims Take to Settle
Victims who reach a settlement without having to file a lawsuit get compensated faster.
Your dog bite claim may be more or less challenging and time-consuming depending on the following factors:
Duration of medical care. Some dog bite injuries may take a long time to treat or leave lasting damage. Waiting until your medical treatment is completed or until you have received an accurate prognosis can help ensure that you are fully compensated for your injuries. If the full extent of your medical care and costs are unknown, the insurance company is unlikely to offer you a fair settlement. Beware of any quick settlement offers made while you are still recovering; your expenses may turn out to be much more.
Amount of available insurance. If there is plenty of insurance coverage available to pay your costs, you may assume your dog bite case will settle faster. However, the opposite is usually true because the insurance company knows it is unlikely a jury verdict in your favor would exceed the policy limit. Thus, there is little to no pressure on the insurance carrier to settle quickly. By contrast, cases with serious injuries and costs are more likely to result in a jury verdict higher than the available coverage. Insurance companies are typically more willing to offer prompt settlements to protect their insured homeowner or avoid the risk of paying more than the policy limit due to the insurer’s negligence or bad faith.
If negligence is clear. If it is evident under Georgia law that the owner’s negligence led to the dog attack (e.g., the dog had been classified as a “vicious or dangerous animal,” and the owner still allowed it to run loose), the case may be settled faster. However, negligence may be less apparent when the “vicious or dangerous animal” factor does not apply or when there are no local leash laws. The dog owner may also claim defenses if there is evidence the victim provoked the dog or was trespassing on the owner’s property when attacked. The more evidence presented, sometimes the harder it is to determine who was at fault and reach a settlement.
The insurance company responsible. Some insurance companies are known to fight every case or make payment offers far below the normal range for injuries and medical expenses. When dealing with these carriers, it may take longer to negotiate a fair settlement. The victim may have to file a lawsuit to get full compensation for a dog bite.
Defense attorney expenses. Using a private attorney to defend a dog bite case can be expensive because these law firms charge by the hour. However, large insurance companies often avoid higher costs by using in-house attorneys, so they may be more likely to drag out the settlement process.
A claim against the government. Broad immunities that protect local and state governments from legal claims can make it difficult for a dog bite victim to get compensation. For example, if you were attacked by a dog running loose at a community dog park, the local municipality would generally be protected. However, if the city or county owns the park and a handler’s negligence caused an injury, it may be possible to recover. But proving a case against the government can be hard due to sovereign and official immunity (often available to law enforcement or other government employees). It is unlikely any claim involving a government body will settle quickly.
When Medicaid or Medicare are involved. If Medicaid or Medicare paid some or all of your medical bills, you would likely have to reimburse those payments. This means part of your settlement may need to be set aside to pay the lien. Most medical liens are negotiable, but having a lien will cause a delay in receiving all the money from your settlement.
Factors That Can Expedite the Settlement of Dog Bite Claims
While there is no way to guarantee a more efficient process, the following factors may help speed up your settlement:
Presenting strong evidence fast. If you can quickly show evidence proving the dog owner’s liability, the insurance company is more likely to reach a fast decision not to fight your dog bite case, which can accelerate your settlement. This evidence can include police reports, animal control reports showing a history of aggressive behavior or violations of leash laws, witness statements, photographs and videos of your injuries and the attack scene, and other relevant records. An experienced lawyer can help you gather the evidence you need to prove liability and present your case to the insurance company.
Providing all records. Most insurance companies will not make a settlement offer until the victim provides all medical bills, records of lost wages, and other documentation relevant to the dog bite claim. Once the insurance adjuster has the records necessary to make an offer, they request approval from their superiors to settle the case. The larger the claim amount, the more documentation is required to reach a fair settlement.
The insurance company responsible. A reputable insurance company is more likely to offer you a fair settlement amount and not drag out the claims process longer than necessary. However, even a “good” carrier will not offer you a settlement until you provide the required documentation.
Giving enough information to set a case reserve. A case reserve is the amount of money an insurance company sets aside to pay a claim and may be limited by the coverage amount of the policy. However, assuming your damages do not exceed the limit, the insurance adjuster will set the reserve based on how much money is needed to cover your costs. If set too low, it can take more time to change the case reserve to a level the carrier can pay. If you give the adjuster enough information to set the case reserve accurately, the insurance company may settle your case faster.
Large expenses and low policy limit. When you incur high costs because of a dog bite, your case may settle quickly if its value is clearly much greater than the amount of insurance available. In this situation, the insurance company may offer to pay its policy limit early, possibly even while you are still receiving treatment for your injuries. Sometimes, the victim’s attorney must send the carrier a time-limited demand (often called a “Holt demand”) to notify it that the case is likely to exceed the policy limit. Sending a notification will usually result in an expedited settlement offer.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Compensation After a Dog Bite Settlement?
If you reach a settlement for your dog bite claim, this agreement will contain the terms and conditions that determine how and when you will be compensated. Payment is usually made in one of two ways:
- Lump-sum payments, which are usually paid within 30 days after agreeing on a settlement; or
- Periodic payments, which require monthly or semi-monthly payments until the settlement amount is paid in full.
Cases involving minor children or incapacitated adults may require probate or state court approval. If a settlement requires court approval in Georgia, it typically takes two to four months to receive payment.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Compensation After a Dog Bite Trial?
Most dog bite cases are resolved through settlement agreement; only a small number go to trial. The process of going to trial is expensive and can take months or even years to conclude.
After a trial verdict, the losing party has 30 days to appeal, which would usually delay compensation. Fortunately, most verdicts are not appealed.
Insurance companies generally pay shortly after the final verdict. If you do not receive compensation, you may pursue collection on the judgment. However, collection actions are rarely necessary because insurance carriers almost always pay the judgment promptly.
Why You Should Be Skeptical of Quick Settlement Offers for Dog Bites
Always be wary of a quick settlement offer from an insurance company. It takes time to assess a dog bite claim properly, and you may not know the full extent of your losses when the carrier makes an offer. If you accept payment too early, your settlement may not cover all your treatment and expenses.
Your compensation should include not only the losses you already suffered but also expenses you are likely to suffer in the future, such as ongoing medical and rehabilitation costs, decreased future earnings, and other financial hardships caused by the dog bite.
Once you agree to a settlement, you usually waive your right to any future compensation for the attack. Be patient and remember that you can accept an offer later, after you have a full understanding of your losses and needs.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Speed Up Compensation
Insurance companies always try to pay as little as possible on claims and are more likely to drag out the process when victims are not represented by an attorney.
In addition, insurance carriers often use tactics, such as denying a valid claim or offering victims a quick settlement far below what their claim is worth, to protect their bottom lines. Attorneys who are familiar with these practices can help fight them, so you receive fast and fair compensation.
Collecting the right evidence and presenting it early on to the insurance company is crucial in getting a reasonable settlement, but this can seem like a daunting task for someone who has been injured in an attack. An experienced attorney can guide you through these steps and advocate for your claim, expediting the process and ensuring that you get fully compensated.
If you’ve been injured in a dog attack, call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation so we can review your case. Our qualified attorneys may be able to help you get a larger settlement that is fair and ensures you are fully compensated for your suffering.