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Do I Need a Dog Bite Attorney?

Dog owners love their pets for providing endless amounts of love and companionship. They don't love when their animal attacks someone and causes serious injuries. These injuries can be property damage or personal injuries. If your dog bites someone or if a dog bit you, then you may need to hire a dog bite attorney.

Dog bite laws vary by state so it's important to pick a local personal injury lawyer with experience in dog bite claims. These personal injury attorneys help evaluate your dog bite case. They can tell you if:

  • You have a claim against someone else
  • You are liable, or responsible, for your dog's actions
  • Your dog is a dangerous dog
  • There are any legal defenses to make
  • Your homeowner's insurance policy will cover any damages
  • There will be any legal or monetary consequences

What Can I Do if I'm Injured by a Dog?

You have several options if someone else's animal attacks you. You or your loved one should report the attack to animal control and seek medical treatment. You should make sure to get the phone number and contact information of the owner of the dog and any witnesses who saw the incident. Filing a dog bite report is important to your case.

Next, you can pursue a personal injury claim. Personal injury can include medical expenses and disfigurement suffered in the dog attack. You would file a homeowners insurance claim with the dog owner's insurance company. Most homeowners insurance policies will cover an initial dog bite claim ("one-bite rule") on the insured's property. Some policies will also cover dog bite victims' claims that occur off the property. In those situations, the policy holder owns or keeps the dog on the insured property covered by the insurance company.

A dog bite attorney can be helpful in negotiating with the insurance company and giving you legal advice. They use their knowledge and experience to make sure you get fair compensation based on the severity of your injuries. Compensation includes your medical bills, lost income, and emotional trauma. A severe dog bite case averages $40,000, but disclaimer: it depends on the fact of your case and state laws. Some courts look at the Dunbar Dog Bite Scale, which rates dog bites into levels of severity from a scale of 1 to 6. Dog bite attorneys often have a free case evaluation. They play an important role in these lawsuits since they know the applicable laws of your state, how to calculate damages, statute of limitations, and how to present evidence to a jury.

You can also file a lawsuit against a landlord or dog's owner for damages. Some state dog bite statutes even allow these lawsuits to cover other types of dog-related injuries like lacerations not caused by a bite.

Proving Liability in a Dog Bite Case

Whether you can hold someone liable for your dog bite injuries depends on state law and the facts of your case. In some states, the traditional common law "one-bite" rule imposes responsibility in limited situations. A dog gets a pass for his first bite unless the owner did something wrong. For example, if the owner knew or had reason to know their dog was dangerous, then he would be liable to a dog bite victim.

Approximately half the states have statutes that impose strict liability on dog owners. This means the injured person only has to show that a dog caused their injury. The dog bite victim must not have been trespassing and had to have a legal right to be where they were. Precautions taken by the owner are not considered in those states.

States that do not have dog bite statutes follow the common law negligent standard. This means the owner must act like a reasonable pet owner and keep their animal under control. 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 the owner's property, and people in public places. Owners also have to obey local leash laws and statutes that create liability. In some states, owners must take extra measures if they own a particularly dangerous animal or specific breed of dog.

There are situations where another person that is not the dog owner may have a verdict against them in a dog bite incident. These other liable parties can include:

  • Parents of a dog-owning minor
  • Animal caretakers (such as dog sitters or a kennel)
  • Property owners
  • Landlords

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. Some common arguments an opposing dog bite attorney may argue include the following:

  • Trespassing: Trespassers may have some legal protections. Your state's dog bite statutes may demand the victim prove he had permission to be in a location where he was bit. Under those rules, a person does not recover damages for a dog bite that occurs while trespassing.
  • Provocation: Another common liability defense is if the injured person provokes the dog before the attack. Should a person tease, corner, or hit a dog in some states, the dog owner will not have to pay damages in a dog bite lawsuit.
  • Comparative Negligence or Assumption of Risk: In some cases, the dog's owner may argue that you are partially responsible for your own injuries. For example, if the owner provided adequate warnings about their dog, but you disregarded those warnings. Your reimbursement for medical care and injuries is reduced or denied.

An experienced dog bite lawyer will know which arguments an opposing dog bite attorney might use against you. Experienced attorneys who handle personal injury cases will best know how to combat those defenses.

Contact a Dog Bite Attorney

Whether you're pursuing a dog bite lawsuit or defending against one, the consequences can be significant. Depending on where the incident happened or where you live, a successful lawsuit can result in awards that cover medical bills, wrongful death, 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.

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