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Dog/Animal Bites - FAQ

One interesting aspect of tort law involves the owners' liability for animal and dog bites. The law on animal bites and dog bites varies among states. This article sets out to answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about animal bites and dog bites.

What steps should I take after an animal attack?

After a dog or animal attack, your first priority should be to take care of yourself or your loved one. Seek medical attention for bites and wounds. Once you are safe, call local law enforcement to make a police report. Animal control officers may also arrive to question you and the dog owner. They will also assess the dog and implement safety precautions if needed.

Do I have to file a police report after a dog attack?

Filing a police report helps keep a record of the incident, which will help you later on in the case. A police report includes things like the contact information of the animal's owner and documents injuries like broken bones and bite marks.

If my neighbor's dog bit me on my property, do I have a dog bite lawsuit?

It depends on the circumstances and the type of liability in your state. Strict liability states will require dog owners to make you whole. In that case, 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 propensities before it attacked you.

Does insurance pay for medical bills after an animal attack?

Insurance companies give you an insurance policy when you sign up with them. Your renter's insurance or homeowner's insurance policies detail if the company covers domestic animals like pets in their policies. Some exclude certain breeds of dogs or dangerous dogs. If not, then the insurance company may cover payment for the injured party's:

  • Medical treatment
  • Disfigurement
  • Damages

What are common injuries in a dog bite case?

The most common injuries after a dog bite are personal injuries. Dog bite injuries include wounds, lacerations, broken bones, infections, and even death. A dog bite lawyer can help you recover a judgment for other injuries like emotional distresspain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, punitive damages, and loss of consortium.

There are also other compensatory damages. If a dog killed your pet, this amount may include:

  • The purchase price of a similar pet
  • Registration of a purebred animal
  • Animal licensing, shots, and training costs for a new animal

If the dog maimed your pet, this amount may include additional money spent on your pet beyond normal veterinary bills. Because the laws differ in each state, you should check with an attorney for further information.

What can parents do when someone's pet attacks a child?

As a parent, you will have to file a lawsuit on behalf of your child.

If I knew my friend's dog was violent but still visited, am I partly responsible for my injuries?

This depends on what type of liability your state has. In a strict liability state, then the answer is no. In a comparative negligence state, the answer is yes. In that case, your damages may get reduced if you knew there was a dangerous dog.

Who do I sue when a stray dog bites me?

Generally, a person bitten by a stray dog will not have a legal claim. If there is no owner to find, then there is no one to hold accountable in a lawsuit. Municipalities like towns and cities are generally not responsible for stray dogs' actions.

If a dog is being kept at the local animal shelter or animal rescue but escapes and bites you, you may have a claim against that organization. If you can argue that their negligence caused your injury, you may recover damages.

Do I have a claim if I went to a house to perform work, and the property owner's dog bit me?

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 make reasonable efforts to protect you from injury. So, if the person has a pet, the person is responsible for keeping the pet away from you. At the very least, they must warn you of the presence of the animal. You may also have a workers' compensation claim against your employer if the injury happened during a job.

Do I have a personal injury case if a police dog bites me?

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 an attorney help you determine, the police compensate you for your injuries.

Is my homeowner's insurance responsible for a dog bite to a trespasser?

In most cases no, your homeowner's insurance would not be responsible, but it depends on the state. States like Florida and Connecticut do not allow trespassers to recover dog bite injuries. Some states allow the victim, even if they were a trespasser, to recover damages from a homeowner's insurance policy.

Can I file for workers' compensation if a dog bit me on the job?

If the injury occurs during your regular job duties and hours, you will most likely file a workers' compensation claim with your employer. If the owner of the dog is not your employer, you may bring a tort claim against that person as well.

If a dog owner violates a city's leash law, are they liable for dog bite injuries?

Generally, yes. If an owner violates a leash law, and their dog attacks someone, many courts will hold that this fact alone is enough to conclude the owner was negligent. This means the injured person receives compensation from the dog owner.

Can a pet owner go to jail for keeping a vicious animal?

Yes, they can. There have been numerous instances where people have been criminally convicted for knowingly owning dangerous animals. This is especially true in strict liability states, but criminal law is different in every state. In some instances, owners are guilty of murder when an animal's attack kills another person. Sentences have ranged from severe fines to significant jail time.

How much is the average award or settlement for a dog attack?

There are an estimated 4.5 million dog bites a year in America. The average settlement as of 2022 was $64,555. The settlement amount depends on the severity of injuries, state laws, the insurance company involved, and the facts of the case. The states with the most dog bite claims in 2020 were California, Florida, and Texas.

What is a dangerous dog?

Dangerous dogs are dogs known to be aggressive or display aggressive tendencies. Courts have found a dog to be dangerous, or an owner to have known the dog was dangerous, in the following instances:

  • Where disclaimers like “Beware of Dog" are on the premises
  • The dog owner told others or issued warnings not to pet the dog
  • The dog has a vicious or dangerous label from another incident
  • The dog snarls or snaps at people, unprovoked
  • City ordinances list the dog's breed as banned

Are some dog breeds more likely to attack than others? Will it affect a claim?

According to some city and state laws, they consider certain dog breeds as inherently dangerous. Those states may say breeds like pit bulls or Rottweilers are dangerous just by being one. This can affect the ability of a dog owner to pay a judgment if their homeowner or renter's insurance excludes that dog breed. This means their insurance company will not pay out a claim. However, an injured victim could consider putting a lien on the dog owner's home if they do not pay the judgment.

How do I know if I have a dog bite claim?

Talk to a dog bite lawyer about the dog bite incident and your injury claims. Dog bite lawyers primarily work as personal injury lawyers. You will discuss medical expenses, lacerations, and wrongful death claims. Some states have a one-bite rule while others use negligence theory, which is why consulting with an animal bite attorney is important.

Additional Dog Attack Resources

Are You a Dog Bite Victim? Get a Dog Bite Attorney's Help With Your Claim

We all love "man's best friend," but no one loves when they hurt us or a loved one. Dog bites can cause severe physical and emotional damage. This damage affects you and your dog. Now is the time to learn more about personal injury law and dog bites with this FAQ article. Start the process by speaking with a dog bite personal injury attorney.

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