When Is It OK to Sue a Friend or Family Member After an Accident?

When Is It OK to Sue a Friend or Family Member After an Accident?

Friend's aggressive dog approaches a small child.

We love our grandparents, our dogs, and our children. But what happens if a grandparent’s dog bites and severely injures your child?

According to the Ohio Department of Health, local health departments investigate about 20,000 animal bites annually. Many of these bites involve children who are the victims of attacks by a dog owned by a family member or friend. The injuries are often extensive, require a great deal of medical treatment, and often result in long-term physical injuries (such as scarring) and emotional harm (such as PTSD).

The medical bills are often very high and health insurance may not pay all or any of the medical bills. Fortunately, our family members and friends are often responsible homeowners who purchased homeowner’s insurance. Homeowner’s insurance is meant to protect your family members who own homes and their guests such as children when they are visiting your loved one’s home.

If your child is injured by any dog while visiting a home, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention for your child, contact Animal Control to start a report, and talk to a lawyer about your rights when time allows.

Suing a Friend or Family Member: How Does It Work?

Your loved one’s homeowner’s insurance policy may provide financial compensation for all the economic and noneconomic damages caused by the dog bite.

This financial compensation will not be paid by the owner of the dog. It will be paid by the insurance company.

A homeowner pays premiums to their homeowner’s insurance company to protect them and their guests in case injuries occur on the property. That is what insurance is for. This means that grandma and grandpa will pay nothing from their own bank account to settle claims if their dog bites a guest.

In fact, the homeowner’s insurance policy is a contract and promises to even pay for an attorney for the defendant—the homeowner (or family member or friend)—if a lawsuit has to be filed.

Making a claim on the homeowner’s policy is a business transaction based on a contract that your family member paid for and homeowner’s insurance will provide compensation and, hopefully, closure to the victims of a dog bite.

What Type of Compensation Can I Recover From My Friend or Family’s Homeowner’s Insurance?

These are all elements of financial compensation a child or any guest would be legally entitled to receive from a homeowner’s insurance policy if a dog bite occurred at a family member’s home.

It is important to remember that this financial compensation comes from the insurance company — not your family member.

Medical Payments Coverage

A homeowner’s policy provides medical payments coverage to compensate guests who are injured on the property. The homeowner pays for this coverage and the insurance company is required by law and contract to reimburse guests for medical bills related to medical treatment of injuries that occur on the property.

This coverage is not based on fault. In other words, the guest is only required to show that they were injured on the property and that they incurred medical bills for treatment of those injuries. The homeowner does not need to be at fault for this coverage to be available to the injured guest.

The limit of medical payments coverage is often between $1,000 and $10,000.

Liability Coverage

A homeowner’s policy will also typically have what is called liability coverage, which is meant to compensate a guest injured due to the negligence of the homeowner, such as when their dog injures someone.

The liability coverage provides compensation for legal damages such as:

Medical Bills

The homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for medical bills incurred to treat injuries caused due to the negligence of the homeowner.

Future Medical Bills

The homeowner’s policy will provide for future medical bills in cases where the injured guest will require medical treatment in the future. Future medical bills are only owed if one can establish that an injury is permanent and will require future medical care. An example may be if a child were emotionally scarred due to a vicious dog attack and a child psychologist or psychiatrist recommended future, periodic counseling.

Lost Income

Injuries like dog bites may require the injured person or their loved one to take time off work to recover and to see doctors for medical treatment.

Future Lost Income

If one can establish a permanent injury that will affect one’s ability to continue to work or lessen one’s ability to earn income, future lost wages are on the table.

It is important to note that hiring the experienced lawyers at GB Law is vital in this regard as economic experts are typically required to formulate the amount of one’s future lost wages.

Pain and Suffering

A homeowner’s insurance policy is a contract that will provide compensation for noneconomic losses for things like:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Inability to engage in the activities of daily life

Compensation is also allowed for loss of enjoyment of life for things such as the inability to enjoy hobbies and diminished quality of life brought about by the injuries.

Compensation for pain and suffering or noneconomic losses is usually the largest part of the settlement under a homeowner’s insurance policy.

What Should I Do if My Loved One’s Dog Bites My Child?

Get Immediate Medical Care

It is very important to make sure that your child receives immediate medical care if they are injured by an animal and that you also contact Animal Control in your community the same day as the incident.

Document Injuries

Photos of the injuries should be taken at the earliest moment that it is safe to do so, and photos should be taken throughout the child’s recovery.

Request Homeowner’s Insurance Information

You should ask your family member to provide the name of insurance company that provides their homeowner’s insurance policy and the policy number.

Although it may be a difficult conversation, it is often helpful to let them know that you need this information to cover medical bills now and in the future that might not be paid by your healthcare plan. You may also find that your family member is very willing to provide this information to help reduce the financial burden caused by their pet.

Contact Us

It is also very important that you call the experienced dog bite attorneys with Geiser, Bowman & McLafferty to receive helpful advice and direction.