If you get bitten or injured by a dog in Nebraska, no matter how minor the injury, the owner of the dog will most likely be responsible for your medical bills and any other damage caused under the state’s strict dog bite liability law. Most dog bite injury cases are resolved with insurance claim settlements; however, there are circumstances when you might have to sue for a minor dog bite injury in Nebraska.
Nebraska’s Dog Bite Law
In Nebraska, dog owners are held strictly liable for the actions of their pets. Strict liability means liable regardless of the question of negligence. Nebraska Revised Statute 54-601 states that the owner of any dog shall be liable for damages that may accrue to a person from having been bitten by such dog. Unless the victim was harassing or provoking the dog or trespassing at the time of the incident, the dog owner will have to pay damages even if he or she was unaware of the dog’s propensity for viciousness.
Minor vs. Severe Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bite injuries will be classified as mild, moderate or severe by a doctor based on the level of damage inflicted on the victim:
- If the skin was not punctured but the bite left a mark, it is a level 1 or 2 dog bite injury (mild).
- If the skin is punctured, bruised or there are other wounds caused by a dog’s aggressive behavior, it is a level 3 or 4 injury (moderate).
- If the dog caused a deep puncture wound, soft-tissue injury, bone fracture or nerve damage, it is a level 5 or 6 injury (severe).
The severity of a dog bite depends on the size of the dog, the breed, the cause of the attack, and the age and health of the victim. In general, if a dog causes severe harm to a person, the victim will have grounds to sue the pet owner for damages.
Insurance Claim vs. Personal Injury Lawsuit
Nebraska law does not require a dog bite injury to be major or severe to qualify the victim for financial compensation from the owner of the animal. You have the right to bring a claim against the pet owner even with a minor injury. Most of these cases take the form of homeowners insurance claims. Homeowners insurance covers dog bite injuries since dogs are classified as property in Nebraska.
Filing a claim with the dog owner’s insurance carrier can result in a settlement awarded to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses associated with the attack. If the insurance company rejects your claim or does not offer a settlement that is fair and reasonable based on the extent of your injuries, you may need to take your case to trial.
Nebraska has a Small Claims Court reserved for minor disputes. Judgments awarded in the Small Claims Court may not exceed $3,900. If your dog bite injuries are minor, you can file a lawsuit with this court to hold the pet owner responsible. You will need to pay all related court costs and fees. The cost of suing someone in court means that doing so only makes financial sense if you expect to obtain at least as much as you will spend in the form of a judgment award.
Should You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite Injury?
It is often not necessary to sue or file a lawsuit for a minor dog bite injury in Nebraska. However, there are cases where a minor injury becomes infected and turns into a more serious (and expensive) injury. There are also cases where the dog owner refuses to accept responsibility for the attack or his or her homeowners insurance company rejects the claim. In these scenarios, you may have no choice but to pursue financial compensation in court.An Omaha dog bite injury lawyer can review your case and let you know if it is in your best interest to sue the pet owner. In many situations, negotiations with an insurance company are enough to result in a case resolution. If not, an attorney can give you information and advice about taking the dog owner to trial in Small Claims Court.