Are Expert Witnesses Needed in a Dog Bite Case?

Do You Need an Expert Witness in a Dog Bite Case?

Although it may seem to you that your dog bite injury and lawsuit will have an obvious outcome, you may need an expert witness to strengthen and support your case. The type of witness your lawyer may call depends on the case and all of its variables.

The first thing for you to be aware of is the fact that your case may never actually make it to court, as only about 2-5% of dog bite cases get that far without settling. The trial is expensive, takes a lot of time to plan for, and may be delayed for a longer period than you are comfortable with. It also does not have a guaranteed outcome.

Even if your case does not make it to the courtroom, an expert witness may bolster your case as your dog bite attorney works to get you the compensation that you need and are entitled to.

Why would you need an expert witness?

Experts are highly trained in their fields and have the qualifications to show for it. They have specialized knowledge and experience about particular subjects. An expert witness must be able to hold up to questioning from the dog owner’s insurance company’s lawyers, although in most cases, the expert witness simply prepares a written report.

You may need to prove that the dog that bit you is actually the guilty dog.

This could be the case if there were several dogs involved (at a park, for instance).

Each dog has a particular set of teeth marks. An expert in dog dentition can measure the distance between the puncture marks on your skin and compare those to the position of the dog’s teeth and to the size of the dog’s jaw.

DNA evidence can be used, although that is expensive.

Dogs also have differing levels of jaw pressure. Dog’s bite pressure is measured by pound-force per square inch (PSI)

Here is the bite PSI for some dog breeds popular in the United States:

  • English Mastiff            556 PSI
  • Akita                            400 PSI
  • Rottweiler                    328 PSI
  • Siberian Husky           320 PSI
  • American Bulldog       245 PSI
  • German Shepherd      238 PSI
  • Great Dane                 238 PSI
  • Pit Bull Terrier             235 PSI
  • Labrador Retriever      230 PSI
  • Doberman Pinscher    229 PSI

Just to put those numbers in context, the average adult human bite can be measured at 120-140 PSI.

Other types of expert witnesses:

Medical experts:

These may be doctors, surgeons, psychologists, or psychiatrists. A medical expert may have to testify or prepare a report clarifying the following questions:

  • What treatment was needed? For example, how many stitches, is there nerve or tendon damage, how deep did the teeth penetrate, were any bones fractured, what is the average recovery time for this type of wound, etc…
  • Is there a permanent injuryor scarring? This includes disfigurement as well, something that is of particular concern for young children who have been bitten in the face.
  • Is there emotional damage, such as post traumatic stress (PTSD) or the development of phobias?

Canine experts:

These can be trainers, breeders, animal behavior experts, animal control officers, or veterinarians). A canine expert may have to testify or prepare a report clarifying the following questions:

  • Is the dog aggressive? Could the owner have been aware of the dog’s propensity for aggression? Was the dog reacting to provocation (a study shows that legal provocation occurs in only 6.5% of dog attacks)?
  • Has the dog been bred to be violent? Has the dog been improperly trained? Was the dog under proper management and control when the bite occurred? What was the dog’s history?

Financial experts:

These experts may be economists, vocational advisors, or financial planners. A financial expert may have to testify or prepare a report clarifying the following questions:

  • How much income did you lose as a result of the attack?
  • Are you still able to perform the duties of your job? How have your long-term career prospects been affected?

Eyewitnesses

Although eyewitnesses are not experts, they can be extremely helpful for your case. If anyone sees what happens to you, make sure to get a name and phone number or email address. You may need the witness to testify or write a report that supports your version of events. Eyewitnesses can answer the following types of questions:

  • What events led up to the attack? Did the plaintiff provoke the dog in question, the actual dog that did the biting (in case there were multiple dogs and resulting confusion)? Was the dog on a leash? What did the dog owner do or not do?
  • Can any neighbors attest to the fact that the dog is known to be aggressive? Has the dog bitten anyone else before? Can neighbors give evidence of the owner’s behavior towards the dog or of the dog’s behavior towards other people?

Character Witnesses

These types of witnesses are not expert witnesses, but they are crucial in dog bite cases where there is a permanent injury or loss of income.  These witnesses are often acquaintances from work, places of worship, or other social groups or boards that the victim is involved in participating with.  These character witnesses can typically give the judge or jury a snapshot showing how the victim was doing before the dog bite vs. after the dog bite.  These witnesses can answer the following questions:

How was the victim feeling before the dog bite vs. after the dog bite? Is there anything the victim can’t do now that he/she could do before?  Was the victim in noticeable pain before the dog bite vs. after the dog bite? 

How was the victim doing at work before the crash vs. after the crash?  How much work would get done, how strenuous is the job, did they ever need help or did they work independently.

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you should immediately contact the experienced Maryland dog bite attorneys at Zirkin and Schmerling Law at 410-753-4611. We can ensure that you are following the correct steps and will protect your rights! You deserve experienced, aggressive representation for your Maryland dog bite.