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Does the Type of Animal Affect a Bite Injury Case?

Animal attacks, such as dog bite injuries, can result in different kinds of liability for animal owners. If you suffer serious injury as a result of an animal bite, seek medical attention immediately. Later, you may be able to hold a pet owner responsible through a personal injury case. If you decide to pursue a legal claim for the harm you suffered, your rights might vary, depending on the type of animal that bit you.

The disclaimer to remember is that different animals affect what kind of legal path you might take. A dog bite claim in Florida might be treated differently than a personal injury law case involving a bear in California. While certain pets can be leashed under ordinary circumstances, others may be undomesticated and vicious. Accordingly, each animal's tendencies warrants a different set of injury laws.

Dog Bite Cases

Most states have enacted laws that are collectively referred to as "dog bite laws." Dog bite laws impose what is known as "strict liability" on dog owners for injuries caused by dog attacks. Strict liability means that the dog owner is responsible for injuries caused by their dog, regardless of whether the owner was actually at fault.

Dog bite laws provide a significant legal advantage to people injured by dogs. In states that do not have such laws, an injured person has the burden of proving that the dog owner knew (or should have known) that their dog was vicious and could injure someone. For example, under the one bite rule, an owner of a dog should be on notice that their dog has vicious tendencies. Under strict liability dog bite law, however, an injured person only needs to show that the dog bit them. The owner's knowledge is not an issue.

Sometimes, an injured person may be barred from recovering damages (even under a dog bite law) if the dog owner shows that the injured person either:

  • Provoked the dog
  • Trespassed on the owner's property

Generally, in states with dog bite laws, a person injured by a dog will have an easier time proving their legal case than a person bitten by another type of animal. To find out whether your state has a specific dog bite statute, you should check with an experienced attorney in your area.

Negligence Law for Horses and Other Domestic Animals

Most injuries from horses are caused by kicks rather than bites. Cows, sheep, and chickens might fall into a similar pecking order. As domesticated animals, they're typically used to being around human beings. For the most part, farm animals aren't exactly known for being a danger to people.

Most states do not have specific laws regarding injuries caused by domesticated animals. So, such injuries are typically treated under standard rules of negligence. These are the same rules that dictate other kinds of injury events, like car accidents. To prove negligence in animal attacks, you must show:

  1. The owner of the animal owes you a duty of care. For example, they may be responsible for preventing foreseeable harm to you while you are on their property.
  2. The owner of the animal has breached that duty of care. For instance, by allowing their animal to roam freely and attack you, they may have failed to keep you reasonably safe.
  3. The owner's breach was the cause of the resulting harm to you.
  4. You suffered harmful damages, such as injuries or property loss, as a result of the affair. (These can be quantified using medical bills.)

For example, a horse owner may be liable for injuries if the owner knew or had reason to know of the horse's dangerous tendencies yet took no safety precautions around guests. The owner will have to pay for the injured party's damages, including their medical treatment costs. Consistent with other animal cases, however, a horse owner may not be liable for injuries if the owner can prove the injured person either:

Strict Liability for Wild Animals

People who own or keep wild animals are often subject to strict liability in the same way that dog owners are responsible for dog bites under dog bite laws. This is because the act of keeping a potentially uncontrollable and vicious animal is considered inherently dangerous.

For example, consider the risks that a bear or a lion might pose for others' safety. Even chaining them or placing them in enclosures might not be enough to prevent danger. Wild and exotic animals can escape or even attack people through barriers. So, the risk of keeping them never goes away. Similarly, venomous snakes, spiders, or insects fall into the same category of wild and dangerous animals. A pet scorpion—as innocent as its owner makes it out to be—can be a harbinger of death.

Thus, even if the owner of a wild animal goes to extreme measures to protect people from their animal, danger persists. A bear hug can turn into a wrongful death case, no matter how many leash laws the owner follows. If the animal does end up injuring someone, the owner can be held liable regardless of the effort they took to protect the public.

Talk to a Law Office About Your Bite Injury Claim

The type of animal that injures you can affect your legal rights. To find out if your state has specific dog bite laws or other animal-specific laws, you may need to pursue a formal personal injury claim. It's best to discuss your potential claim with a dog bite attorney or other legal professional familiar with animal attacks.

If you're a dog bite victim, a dog bite lawyer can help you recover for your medical expenses. Similarly, an experienced personal injury lawyer can provide you with legal advice and help you pursue legal action in all other animal attack cases. Personal injury attorneys can fight with pet owners, homeowners, their insurance companies, and other liable parties to get you the justice you deserve.

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