The reality is that there is no “average” amount of time it takes to settle a dog bite claim. Some cases settle in no more than a few weeks, if the facts are clear and everyone involved is cooperative. Others can drag on for months or even years after the initial dog bite, putting ever greater stress on dog bite victims and their families.
Here are a few of the most common factors that influence how long it may take a case to settle.
The Dog Bite Laws in Your State
Although specific dog bite laws vary from state to state, most fall into one of two broad categories: strict liability or the “one bite” rule.
- In a strict liability state, a dog owner or caretaker is typically considered responsible for the actions of their dog, even if they had no reason to suspect the dog was dangerous or had no way to prevent the dog bite. As long as their dog was not provoked, or the victim was not trespassing or breaking the law, the dog’s owner will likely be considered at fault.
- In a one bite rule state, you typically need to prove that the dog’s owner knew that their dog might bite—for example, because they had already bitten someone in the past, or had a history of aggressive behavior.
The one bite rule is a higher standard than strict liability, which means that dog bite claims in those states (including Texas) are more difficult to win and often take longer to settle.
Whether Negligence Is Clear Based on the Evidence
If you, your child, or other loved one were viciously attacked, it may be clear as day to you that dog owner was at fault and should be responsible to pay for the resulting dog bite injuries. But again, because of the higher burden of evidence required in Texas cases, proving negligence might be harder than you think.
For example, the dog owner may claim, truthfully or not, that:
- Their dog had never bitten anyone before, and they had no reason to know that the canine was dangerous
- The only reason the dog attacked was because you provoked it
- You were trespassing at the time of the attack
These claims may or may not be outright lies, but if you do not have evidence showing that that dog owner had a reason to know their dog was dangerous or exercised reasonable care to prevent the bite from occurring, then negligence may be in dispute—and that can cause a dog bite case to drag out for a long time.
The Severity of the Dog Bite Injuries
The simple fact of the matter is that insurance companies do not want to pay out large dog bite injury claim settlements. They are interested in their own bottom line, not your recovery.
If you or your loved one’s injuries are minor, relatively little medical treatment is needed, and recovery is quick, reaching a fair settlement might not take a whole lot of negotiating. From the perspective of the insurance company, such small claims may not be worth fighting.
On the other hand, if the injuries are serious, current and future medical bills and lost wages are large, and the emotional trauma, pain, and suffering are significant, the insurance adjuster is going to take a much more critical look at your case and seek any opportunity to deny you a quick settlement, drag out the process, and get you to accept less than what your case is truly worth.