Dog bite injuries tend to be either very small or very large. Either the dog nicked your arm and drew a little bit of blood or the dog caused a lot of damage. The small injuries tend to be a result of a dog that is startled or backed into a corner and looking for a way out. The large injuries tend to occur when dangerous or aggressive dogs are not properly maintained by their owners.
Either way, if you’ve been bitten by someone else’s dog, you’re probably left with the feeling that you and your insurance company shouldn’t be the ones who are responsible for paying the bills.
If you do have health insurance, they should be paying the bills first. The last thing that you want to do after being bitten by a dog is let the medical bills rack up or go into collections. If you have health insurance, let them pay the bills initially and seek recourse from the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy after you have made a full recovery. Remeber that the homeowner’s insurance policy is only going to write you one check as a settlement of your dog bite case. They will not be paying the bills piecemeal as they come in.
Many dog bite victims are confused by this little piece of Virginia law. Again, you want your health insurance company to pay first to avoid collection calls from the hospital and your doctors. But be aware that you may owe some money back to your health insurance company at the end of your case if you get a settlement from a liability insurance company. This is called a “right of subrogation” and, while most policies in Virginia do not have one, you need to be aware that it exists in certain policies so that you aren’t stuck holding a large bill months after the settlement.
If you do not have health insurance and you are bitten by a dog, the other place to look for a source of payment for your medical bills is on your own renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy. You may have an optional coverage called medical expense payments benefits (MedPay) on either of those policies that will pay some of your bills as they are incurred.
If you also do not have MedPay coverage, you will either have to pay the bills upfront. Again, it is important to remember that once you receive a payment from the other person’s insurance company and sign a release, you can never go back and ask them for more money if a bill comes up that you did not know about or the bite gets infected and requires more treatment.
The final option that you have is to try to find a personal injury lawyer who can sign an assignment with the treating physician that lets the doctor know he will get paid out of a portion of the settlement proceeds at the end of your case.