dog bite lawsuit

$500k dog bite settlement sheds light on victim-friendly laws in N.J.

As he walked out of his office around 5:30 that July morning, Samuel Akinsanya heard growling in the hallway. A Rottweiler and pit bull had escaped from a cage in the Elizabeth factory where he worked the overnight shift as a security guard. Before Akinsanya could react, the dogs pounced.

“They jumped at me. I was trying to fight. I was trying to defend myself but they were biting me all over my body,” Akinsanya, 43, said in a phone interview Friday. He said he fought the animals “for almost an hour before police came to rescue me.”

The attack, which occurred in 2010, was so vicious that Akinsanya, who lives in Newark, was left in a coma-like state, intubated in a hospital bed, for 10 days. He was bitten over most of his body, and suffered muscle damage and permanent scarring.

The pit bull choked itself to death because it was thrashing around so much when police tried to subdue the dog. The Rottweiler was eventually returned to its owner.

Dog Bite Lawsuit Statistics

I have recently received a good bit of heated interest in my last two posts (here and here) on the Maryland Court of Appeals opinion in Tracey v. Solesky, in which the court held that in dog bite cases involving a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull mix, plaintiff no longer needs to prove that the dog in particular, or pit bulls, in general, are dangerous.

There is no question that dog bite claims make up their fair share of serious personal injury claims. Here are some statistics:

The insurance industry pays more than $1 billion in dog-bite claims each year. State Farm, the insurance company in Solesky, paid more than $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide in 2011. In 2010, State Farm had approximately 3,500 claims and $90 million in payouts.
The Insurance Information Institute estimated that nearly $479 million in dog bite claims were paid by all insurance companies in 2011, spokeswoman Loretta Worters said. In 2010, it was $413 million.
The CDC says that dogs bite approximately 4.7 million people each year. Over half of the victims are children. Most of these bites are not serious. But approximately 800,000 people seek medical attention for the bites each year. Sixteen people a year die from dog bites. It has to be said: most of thesedog bite lawsuit statistics are from pit bulls. Still, at least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the last 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S.
Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered.
The median (not average) dog bite verdict in Maryland over the last 23 years is $24,600.
At particular risk for dog bites are (1) children ages 5 to 9 years old, (2) seniors, and (3) postmen. Children are the biggest risk. Kids are 900 times more likely to be attacked than a letter carrier.
State Farm’s average cost per dog bite nationally in 2011 was $28,799.

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