When a worker is attacked by a dog while trying to perform their job, they can collect workers’ compensation AND a settlement or verdict from a lawsuit against the dog owner. Attorney Doug Landau came across case report where a tree trimmer and handyman was bitten by a dog while working. The dog bite was so severe that it severed part of his hand. The tree trimmer was taken to a hospital emergency room, where doctors attempted to reattach a portion of his severed finger. The procedure failed, and the fingertip was surgically amputated several weeks later.
In addition, the injured tree trimmer sustained a permanent nerve injury. He suffers from chronic pain at the stump and chronic nerve pain, and is unable to flex his remaining joint. The pain and limited movement have made it impossible for him to handle the power tools he used in his tree work. As often happens after a vicious dog bit or prolonged canine attack, the worker also developed an anxiety disorder, resulting in nightmares and flashbacks.
He sued under the state dog bit statute, which makes dog owners strictly liable for bites as long as the individual bitten was in a public place or lawfully on private property. The plaintiff also alleged common law negligence for failure to control the dog. The defendant admitted liability, and the case proceeded to trial on damages. The plaintiff demanded $150,000 to settle. The defendant offered $40,000, which the plaintiff rejected.
At trial, the plaintiff’s two medical experts testified that the tree trimmer had sustained permanent neurological and psychological injuries. The injured worker also testified about the ways in which the incident has affect his life, including how he is now anxious around dogs, in crowded places, and in places where dogs are unleashed. The plaintiff did not seek lost wages or medical bill reimbursement, but claimed only non-economic damages. The defendant disputed the nature and extent of the worker’s injuries and argued that the only residual damage was the amputation itself.
The California jury awarded $225,000 including $115,000 for the tree trimmer’s future pain and suffering, $100,000 for his past pain and suffering, and $10,000 to his wife for loss of consortium. The parties settled post-trial for approximately $196,000, which was a very good result in this case.