Dog bites require medical care, and severe cases may even result in scarring or disfigurement. Some victims may even miss time from work as they recover, and in serious cases, they may suffer disfigurement or complications like infection from the bite. This can create a major financial burden.

But dog bite cases can be especially troublesome if they involve a dog or owner with whom the victim is familiar. In fact, many dog bites involve a dog known to the victim. Victims may feel uncomfortable taking legal action or filing an insurance claim against a friend or family member. They might worry about what happens to the dog, for instance.

Nevertheless, victims should understand their rights and what the process entails so they can recover the damages to which they are entitled.

Liability of Dog Owners under Iowa Law

Per Section 351.28 of the Iowa Code, dog owners generally are liable for damages that dog bite victims suffer. Even if the owner was not negligent, he or she can be liable for damages stemming from the dog bite.

But if the victim provoked the dog in a cruel manner or the dog suffers from rabies, Iowa law will not hold the dog owner responsible. An exception to this is if the owner knew that the dog had rabies and may have been able to prevent the injury through reasonable effort.

Types of Dog Bite Compensation

A dog bite seriously can affect the course of your life, in addition to that of a spouse or child. No matter how small the dog, they all command the ability to do serious damage to a human. Therefore, the compensation needs to be serious.

Iowa law allows for the following types of compensation in relation to a dog bite:

  • medical bills;
  • loss of past and future wages;
  • scars and disfigurement; 
  • pain and suffering;
  • loss of full mind and body; and
  • damage to child or marital relationship.

What do I do after a dog bite?

Dog bites carry a risk of infection, so it’s important to see a doctor even if you suffered a very minor physical injury. If the dog is not vaccinated against rabies or the dog’s rabies vaccination status is unknown, you may be administered precautionary treatment to protect against the virus.

Make sure you keep evidence of your injuries. This includes medical records as well as photos of the bite area. Getting eyewitness testimony from those who saw the attack can help establish that a particular dog bit you so you can hold the dog’s owner liable.

If you know the owner, you may have to file a claim or lawsuit to recover damages. If you do not know the owner, attempt to find out who owns the dog. Ask neighbors or others in the vicinity where the attack occurred where the dog lives or who owns the dog.

Be cautious dealing with insurance adjusters and only provide them with information that’s necessary and pertinent to your case. In fact, talk to an attorney before giving them a statement.

What happens to the dog?

If the dog is vaccinated, it won’t be euthanized right away (though it’s lawful to kill a dog that is in the act of attacking a person). Per Section 351.39 of the Iowa Code, a local board of health may order the owner of a dog that bit a person to confine the animal. The board will provide instruction on how to confine it. If the owner refuses, then the animal will be apprehended and impounded by the board of health for observation.

What to Do Next

At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, we understand the complexities involved in proving your dog bite claims. Call our office at (888) 435-9886 for a FREE first-time consultation or for a FREE copy of our Iowa Consumer’s Guide to Dog Bites.

Corey Walker
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With over 25 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.