Do I Need a Dog Bite Attorney?
Dogs can provide an endless amount of love and companionship but even the kindest 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. Dog bite 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 available, 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 several options if you're bitten by someone's dog. For starters, you can pursue an insurance claim with the dog owner's insurance company. Most homeowners insurance policies will cover an initial dog bite claim that occurs on the insured's property, and many policies also will cover a bite that occurs off of the property if the dog is owned or kept on the property.
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 most effectively.
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 traditional common law "one-bite" rule is used and imposes liability only if the owner knew or had reason to know their dog was dangerous, for example, if the dog has bitten someone in the past.
Approximately half the states have statutes that impose strict liability on dog owners 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 a 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 teasing or cornering and threatening the dog with an aggressive gesture.
- Comparative 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.
Contact a Dog Bite Attorney
Whether you're pursuing a dog bite lawsuit or defending against one, the consequences 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 today.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.