Dogs can provide a seemingly endless amount of love and companionship, but even the most harmless dogs can cause property damage or personal injuries. If your dog bites someone, or you or your pet were injured by someone else’s dog, you may need to hire a dog bite attorney. Since applicable laws vary by state, a local dog bite attorney can tell you whether you have a legal claim, the potential extent of your liability, what types of defenses may be utilized, and the possible legal and monetary consequences of your dog bite case.
What Can I Do if I’m Injured by a Dog?
You have a number of options if you’re bitten by someone’s dog or other pet. For starters, you can pursue an insurance claim with the dog owner’s insurance company. Many homeowners insurance policies will cover an initial dog bite claim that occurs on the insured’s property. In these cases, a dog bite attorney can be very helpful in dealing with the insurance company and using their knowledge and experience to negotiate a fair settlement.
You can also file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner or caretaker for damages. Some state statutes even allow these lawsuits to cover other types of dog-related injuries, not just dog bites. Dog bite attorneys play a vital role in these lawsuits since they know the applicable laws of your state, how to calculate damages, and how to present evidence in the most effective way.
Proving Liability in a Dog Bite Case
Whether you can hold someone liable for your dog bite injuries will depend on the laws of your state and the strength of your case. In some states, the “one-bite” rule is used and imposes liability if the owner knew or had reason to know their dog was dangerous, for example if the dog bit someone in the past. Other statutes impose strict liability where the injured person only has to show that their injury was caused by the dog bite while they were in a place they had the legal right to be, regardless of precautions taken by the owner.
Various dog bite and negligence statutes mean that the owner generally has a duty to protect others from harm caused by their dog. This includes guests, workers on their property, and people in public places. Owners also have to obey local leash laws and statutes that create liability for those who own particularly dangerous animals or specific breeds of dogs. Additionally, in some states, people other than the dog owner may be held liable for injuries. For example, parents of a dog-owning minor, animal caretakers (such as dog sitters or a kennel), property owners, and landlords could be held responsible in some situations.
Potential Defenses in a Dog Bite Case
The potential defenses someone might use against you in a dog bite case will vary depending on the laws of your state, but some common arguments an opposing dog bite attorney may employ include the following:
Trespassing: While trespassers are given some legal protections, your state’s dog bite statutes may require you to prove that you were bitten while in a place you were legally allowed to be. Under those rules, a person will not be permitted to recover damages for a dog bite that occurs while trespassing.
Provocation: Another common defense is that a dog owner is not liable because the injured person provoked the dog before the bite occurred, for example by cornering and threatening the dog with an aggressive gesture.
Contributory Negligence or Assumption of Risk: In some cases, the dog’s owner may argue that you are at least partially responsible for your own injuries. For example, if the owner provided adequate warnings regarding their dog, and you disregarded those warnings, this may reduce or eliminate your ability to recover damages.
An experienced dog bite attorney will know which arguments an opposing dog bite attorney might use against you, and how best to refute them.
Let a Dog Bite Attorney Review Your Case for Free
Whether you’re pursuing a dog bite lawsuit or defending against one, the ramifications can be significant. Depending on the jurisdiction, a successful lawsuit can result in awards that cover medical bills, lost income, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages. Knowing which laws, damages, and defenses apply to your situation can be difficult. If you’re dealing with a lawsuit involving injuries caused by a dog, contact an experienced dog bite attorney in your area for a free case review today.