Dog bites have always been a huge problem in the United States and statistics show the problem is growing. Insurance companies in the United States alone will likely pay out well over $350 million to injured dog bite victims this year. Studies show that over the last 10 years, the number of reported dog bites has risen over 35% while the number of dogs kept as pets grew just 2%!
Victims of dog bites require immediate medical attention. Failure to get quick medical attention not only poses additional health risks, but may also adversely affect your case if you decide to file a lawsuit against the dog owner that caused the accident. Unfortunately, children are the usual victims of a dog bite, and more often than not they are bitten in the face. This typically means huge medical bills, often including plastic or reconstructive surgery. Insurance companies in the United States alone will likely pay out well over $350 million to injured dog bite victims this year.
The legal rights of a dog bite victim depend largely upon where, and under what circumstances, the attack occurred. In most cases, states make the owner responsible for all dog bites, even if the animal has not shown any previous aggression. In California, any person may be liable if they were negligent or maintained custody or control of the dog with knowledge that it was dangerous or aggressive.
Only under the following situations can a dog owner “sleep peacefully” if their dog bites another person:
- The victim was a trespasser
- The victim was a veterinarian who was treating the dog at the time of the accident
- The victim was committing a felony
- The victim provoked the dog
- The dog was assisting the police or the military at the time of the incident
To succeed in a dog bite claim it is usually necessary to prove at least the following:
- The identity of the owner
- That the victim was, in fact, bitten
- That the victim was, at the time of the bite, in a public place or lawfully in a private place
- That the bite caused injury, suffering, loss, or harm
Dog owners can take the following steps to minimize the possibility of their dogs attacking someone:
- Spay or neuter your dog
- Do not train your dog to play roughly
- Ensure your dog has up-to-date vaccinations
- Take your dog to obedience classes so it becomes accustomed to obeying voice commands
- Never leave babies or small children with a dog unless there is an adult with them
- Keep your dog in a fenced yard, do not allow it to roam
Basic safety tips include:
- Assume that any strange dogs, no matter how cute, to be dangerous
- Never approach any dog while it is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies
- Never try to pet a dog until you have let it see you and smell you
- Never leave children alone with any dog
- Never be aggressive with a dog, stare it in the eye, or run from it
- If a dog does attack, stay still
- If a dog knocks you down, roll into a ball to protect yourself
At Mashney Law Offices, our dog bite attorneys handle lawsuits stemming from animal attacks. Injuries from animal attacks and dog bites can be life threatening. Victims can suffer long-term physical and emotional repercussions. A legal concept entitled “strict liability” often applies to dog attacks.
Q: If my neighbor’s dog bit me on my property, do I have a legal claim?
A: It depends on the circumstances. You will need to determine, for example, whether your state imposes “strict liability” on dog owners. If so, you may only need to prove that the dog injured you. If your state does not have a strict liability law, you may need to show that your neighbor knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious nature before it attacked you. .
Q: Do I have a claim if I went to a house to perform work, and was bitten by the property-owner’s dog?
A: In most cases, if you are asked into a house (or onto property) to perform work for someone, the person who owns the property has a legal responsibility to take reasonable measures to protect you from injury. Thus, if the person has a pet, the person might be responsible for keeping the pet away from you, or at least warning you of the presence of the animal. Note that you may also have a workers’ compensation claim against your employer.
Q: A police dog bit me. Do I have a claim?
A: It depends on the circumstances. Police cannot use unreasonable force when making an arrest or performing any other duty. The improper use of a police dog can constitute unreasonable force. If this was the case in your situation, which is something you should have us help you determine, the police may be required to compensate you for your injuries.
Q: My city has a “leash law.” If a dog owner violates this law, is that person liable for injuries caused by her dog?
A: Generally, yes. If an owner violates a leash law, and her dog attacks someone, many courts will hold that this fact alone is enough to conclude the owner was negligent, and that the injured person is entitled to compensation from the dog owner.
Q: Can a person be imprisoned for keeping a vicious animal?
A: Yes, there have been numerous instances where people have been criminally convicted for knowingly owning dangerous animals. In some instances, owners have been found guilty of murder when an animal’s attack killed another person. Sentences have ranged from severe fines to significant jail time.
Animal attacks and dog bites can produce traumatic, life threatening injuries. If you have been injured by an animal attack please contact one of our staff to determine if you have a case as soon as possible.