I still remember my accident like it was yesterday. One minute I was driving my daughter to school and the next I was waking up in a hospital bed. It was frustrating to deal with the emotional trauma of forgetting an entire week of my life, in addition to stressing about my small child. Fortunately, we were both able to recover, but it wasn't easy walking dealing with the medical bills that accompanied the accident. I found myself struggling with things as simple as answering the phone, because I was nervous about dealing with another insurance adjuster. Fortunately, by working with a lawyer, I was able to make sense of my situation. I know that you can overcome difficult challenges too, which is why I shared my story on this website.
When a person suffers a dog bite, he or she generally sues the owner for damages that may have resulted from the incident. Unfortunately, if the injury occurs in a work setting, workers' compensation may be the only legal recourse for the victim. While workers' comp often quickly pays for some expenses and losses, victims are typically prevented from collecting other types of damages such as pain and suffering. Here's when you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the dog and when you may be limited to workers compensation.
When Workers' Comp is the Exclusive Remedy
When, where, and how you suffered the dog bite will play a big part in whether you can file a personal injury lawsuit or you'll have to file a workers' compensation claim. Naturally, if you work with dogs as part of your job, then any injuries you sustain during the course of your employment would have to be resolved via workers' compensation.
For instance, a police officer who is bitten by a police dog while on duty could not sue the city for damages. Instead, the officer would be required to file a workers' comp claim because the injury arose out of the circumstances of the person's employment.
However, the officer may have a case if he or she is bitten by a dog while off duty. For example, the person is sitting at a restaurant and mauled by a police dog that had been chasing a perpetrator. Since the officer wasn't working at the time the incident occurred, he or she could sue the city for damages.
Things can get a little complex, however, when it comes to people who work with dogs owned by third parties. For instance, a pet groomer gets nipped while bathing the dog of one of the company's customers. Even though many states have dog bite statutes that hold owners responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, the groomer may be prevented from suing the person because the risk of being bitten is something the person assumes as part of his or her job.
Assumption of risk is a viable defense in dog bite cases. Because of this, it may be impossible to win a case against the dog's owner; thus, workers' compensation may be the only avenue available for getting money for injuries.
Times When You May Collect Via Workers' Comp and Civil Lawsuit
On the other side of the coin, there are times when it may be possible to collect workers' compensation and sue the owner of the dog for damages. This can occur when a person does not specifically work with dogs but encounters them during the course of his or her employment.
Mail carriers are a perfect example. Mail carriers have a legal right to be on a person's property because of the nature of their employment. If a homeowner's dog bites the person because the owner didn't take steps to properly secure the animal, the carrier can file a workers' comp claim since the incident happened during the course of employment. The person can also file a civil lawsuit for the balance of the damages because of homeowner's negligence allowed the injury to occur.
For more information about how best to handle dog bites sustained at work, contact a dog bite attorney (learn more here).