Last Updated: 2/24/2024

Dog bites can result in severe physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial burdens for victims. In Iowa, understanding the legal aspects of recovering damages after a dog bite is crucial for victims to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve.

Liability of Dog Owners under Iowa Law

According to Section 351.28 of the Iowa Code, dog owners are generally liable for damages caused by their dogs biting someone, regardless of the owner's negligence.

However, exceptions exist, such as if the victim provoked the dog in a cruel manner or if the dog has rabies. 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.

Victims should be aware of their rights under Iowa law and seek legal guidance to navigate the complexities of dog bite cases.

Types of Dog Bite Compensation

In Iowa, victims of dog bites may be entitled to various types of compensation, including:

Medical Expenses

The cost of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred and that are reasonably certain to be incurred in the future because of your injury are recoverable. These expenses include past (already-incurred) medical expenses and also future medical expenses, which may be caused by the original injury or that result from an increased susceptibility to future injury. 

All forms of care and treatment, whether hospital, medical, therapy, nursing, diagnostic testing, surgery, physical rehabilitation, or pain management are included. You can recover the full value of your medical expenses from the responsible party even if your health insurer has paid all or part of your bills.

Lost Wages (Loss of Earnings)

You are also entitled to recover your lost wages (a/k/a loss of earnings) caused by your injuries. Wages, commissions, bonuses, and all other earnings and fringe benefits are recoverable. You can recover the full value of your lost wages even if your employer or disability insurance has paid all or part of them. 

Future Loss of Earnings

If your injuries permanently limit your ability to earn, you can recover the value of the reduction in earning capacity with a reasonable probability that will occur in the future. These damages compensate you for your lost earning power over the remainder of your working years.

Pain and Suffering

Ordinarily, the most “valuable” element of your bodily injury claim is the right to compensation for physical pain and mental anguish you have suffered and will endure in the future because of your injury. These general damages are in addition to and may be far more than the amount of your lost earnings and medical expenses.

Loss of Full Mind and Body

This part of your bodily injury claim is designed to reimburse you for any loss of function or use of your body or mind. These damages are in addition to your other damages described above. 


If the injury causes scarring or other unsightly marks, you are entitled to recover for the disfigurement and humiliation or embarrassment associated with the disfigurement.

Damage To The Child or Marital Relationship

Serious injuries to a spouse or child may cause damage to the relationship. If this occurs, you are entitled to recover for the loss of society, affection, and assistance of your child or spouse.   


Damages for “wrongful death” are available to the beneficiaries (often the wife, husband, parent, or child) of the deceased person. Sometimes, persons related by blood or marriage, who were dependent upon the deceased, may also recover. 

Damages are not limited to economic loss and may include damages for loss of consortium which the law defines as loss of companionship, comfort, guidance, affection, and aid to the relationship, general usefulness, industry, and attention within the home and family. Damages are also available for the deceased’s lost accumulation of value to his/her Estate.

These compensations aim to cover the various impacts of dog bite injuries on the victim's life, ensuring they receive adequate support during their recovery.

The Effects of Dog Bite Disfigurement

When someone is disfigured from a dog bite – particularly if it affects the most visible areas of the body, such as the face, hands, and arms – the victim might feel embarrassment and avoid social situations.

Disfigurement can cause victims to become self-conscious. The injured person might receive stares and frequently may field questions about their disfigurement. As such, victims might feel alienated and may experience varying degrees of social impairment.

In 2003, researchers at the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England published a report in the journal Body Image explaining that people with disfigurements often have negative self-perceptions and difficulties with social interactions.

This may “frequently involve spirals of negative emotions (e.g., social anxiety), maladaptive thought processes (e.g., fear of negative social evaluation), unfavorable self-perceptions (e.g., lowered self-esteem and unfavorable body image), and negative behavior patterns (e.g., excessive social avoidance).”

Treatments for Emotional Injuries Related to Dog Bite Disfigurement

Disfiguring injuries from a dog bite can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological and emotional disorders that require ongoing treatments. Treatments may include the following.

  • cognitive techniques.
  • psychotherapy.
  • psychosocial interventions.
  • physiotherapy.
  • speech therapy.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
  • counseling.
  • lifestyle changes.
  • and, medications.

“Survivors of physically disfiguring trauma, regardless of the cause, have experienced a series of assaults on the mind as well as on the body that present extraordinary challenges to human resilience,” explains Patricia Blakeney, Ph.D., and Daniel Creson, M.D., Ph.D., in a 2002 report in The Journal of ERW and Mine Action. They later explain, “They must find new identities to fit new body images. Whether for young children or for adults, this process is complex and arduous.”

Seek Legal Assistance

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite incident in Iowa, it's essential to seek legal assistance from a knowledgeable attorney. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, we specialize in dog bite cases and are committed to helping victims recover the compensation they deserve. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn more about your rights under Iowa law.

Iowa dog bite bookA new FREE Book reveals: 6 Things to Know Before Signing Forms, Talking to the Insurance Adjustor or Hiring an Attorney and much, much more.  For your copy of Iowa Injury Attorney Corey Walker's book entitled "Iowa Consumer's Guide to Dog Bites - Insider Secrets to Not Get Bitten by Your Case" which is available to you with no risk or obligation by visiting clicking on the dog bite book on this webpage, going to or by calling 641-792-3595Why offer a Free Dog Bite Book? Since 1997 I have been representing Injured Iowans including many dog bite victims from Des Moines, Ottumwa, Pella, Grinnell, Iowa City, and from throughout the state of Iowa. I have heard too many horror stories about people making costly mistakes causing them to lose thousands of dollars. Before you talk to the insurance company or an attorney you should know your rights are and perhaps, more importantly, your responsibilities. Finally, you can learn about your dog bite claim in the comfort of your own home with no risk or obligation so order your Iowa dog bite book now.

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Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.