Attorney Ben Schwartz weighs-in on Service Animal Bite Cases.
Hi, I’m attorney Ben Schwartz,
Today we are going to answer a viewer question from Josh in Seaford, Delaware. Josh sent me a message and said, what about these so-called “service animals” in a business? A lot seem like they are not. I work in a grocery store. At one point, we were allowed to ask if it was indeed a service animal if we didn’t clearly see a vest on it or any other type of identification. Now I’m told we are in fact not allowed to ask. If one of these animals should bite me, is the owner liable, the grocery chain or both?
It is an excellent question. There are a lot of people that have service animals. You might also refer to them as seeing-eye dogs. There are a couple of other terms but essentially the law allows people with disabilities to have a service animal. It is legal, at least in Delaware where I’m practicing law, it’s legal to go into businesses, eating establishments, take a service animal with you, as long as it’s legitimately a service animal.
The question is if you’re at work in a supermarket in Delaware and there is a service animal and the service animal should happen to bite you, who’s responsible? The direct answer is both. The employer is responsible, not because the employer did anything wrong, but because you’re on the job. You as an employee have workers’ compensation benefits available to you and you don’t have to prove that anybody was at fault to get workers’ compensation. You have to prove that you were injured within the course and scope of your employment and then you get workers’ comp benefits. Workers’ comp benefits are going to pay medical bills, part of your lost wages, not all of your lost wages but some of your lost wages. They are going to pay an award if you get bitten by a dog and you’ve got a scar, that’s called disfigurement. In a workers’ comp claim you are going to get compensated for your disfigurement. If you have a permanent injury or a permanent loss of function to a body part in a workers’ comp claim you would get compensated for that as well.
There are other things you can receive in a workers’ comp claim, so if the dog bites you while you are working your employers’ workers’ comp is going to cover it in a workers’ comp claim. In addition to that, under Delaware law the owner of the dog is strictly liable for any injuries caused by the dog, so you could bring a claim against the owner of the dog too. Assuming they have insurance to cover this, homeowner’s insurance, etc., you are going to make a claim for your pain and suffering, permanent functional impairment to a body part, disfigurement caused from the scarring, lost wages, there’s a whole list of things that you’re entitled to in that claim or in that lawsuit against the owner of the dog.
If you have this situation, you should definitely get an attorney. If you’re in Delaware I’m happy to talk about this situation with you. In Maryland, I’m happy to talk about this situation with you. Outside of Delaware and Maryland, my firm has attorneys practicing in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well. Outside of that area, if you’re watching this in Oregon or New York, you should get an attorney in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred. Get a personal injury attorney who handles both workers’ comp and liability claims. Let that attorney advise you as to what your legal rights and limitations in time limits are. I hope that answered the question. If you have questions for me leave a comment or send us an email. Thanks for watching!