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Dog Bites and Animal Attacks

Owning a pet has incredible perks, like a built-in best friend and constant companion. But our furry, scaley, and feathered pets can sometimes cause serious injuries. Dog bites and animal attacks can leave a person or their loved one seriously and permanently injured. Animal liability usually depends on the state law or common law where the animal attack happened. Those injuries may lead the victims of dog bites to take legal action against the animal owner.

If someone hires a dog bite lawyer and files a personal injury lawsuit, know you have legal rights. It helps to understand how a personal injury and dog attack trial works, whether you were the dog bite victim or the animal owner.

This article outlines the elements of a dog bite case, calculating animal attack damages, and how to gather evidence for a personal injury case trial.

Dog Bite and Animal Attack Articles

Here are some helpful articles that will help you understand the importance of seeking medical attention, filing a dog bite report, and documenting dog bite injuries.

  • Dog Bites & Animal Attack Overview: Pets can be wonderful companions, neighborhood terrors, or both. This article covers the basics of dog bite liability and how animal attack lawsuits work.
  • Animal Bites: Who Pays Damages?: The owner is technically liable when a dog bites someone else. However, the owner's insurance policies often have terms that cover animal attacks. Read on to find out when an insurance company's policy might cover these damages.
  • Proving Knowledge of a Dog's ViciousnessProving that a pet's owner knew the pet was vicious is a key part of dog bite lawsuits. This article contains some information that might convince a court of the viciousness of a dangerous dog.
  • Animal Attack and Dog Bite Claim Resources: Look at this article for a list of government agencies, first aid tips, information on preventing dog bites, and other useful links and important dog bite resources.
  • Types of Animal Bite Injuries: Much of the law on animal attacks focuses on dog bites, but dogs are not the only animals known to force humans to seek medical treatment. Learn how the type of animal affects the bite injury case in this article.
  • Dog and Animal Bites FAQ: Get started learning about animal bite cases by reading through this helpful list of questions. Read about who is responsible for the damages, whether you can still bring a claim if the bite happened in someone's home, and more.

What To Do After a Dog Bite

If an animal hurts you or your child, you should attend to any injuries first. Get out of harm's way and call animal control to contain the animal. Law enforcement can make a dog bite report and interview witnesses. You can learn more about what to do after a dog bite at

Personal Injury Case Process

After an animal attack, you may contemplate a personal injury lawsuit. Maybe you defend yourself after your animal attacks someone else on your property. Either way, it helps to know what to expect in the litigation process.

  • Before someone can file a lawsuit, they must figure out who is responsible and who will pay for damages. Usually, it is the dog owner, but sometimes it can also be a landlord or homeowner.
  • Determine if you need to hire a dog bite lawyer.
  • Make an animal attack or dog bite claim. This happens directly with an insurance company or through a demand letter. Claims are made against homeowners insurance and renters insurance.
  • Gather evidence. Evidence includes photographs, statements, witness information, medical bills, surgery costs, and records.
  • The insurance company assigns an adjuster to determine if the policy covers the claim. If it does, then they will calculate how much your claim is worth.
  • Sometimes, you will settle your claim here. The insurance company may offer to cover your medical expenses and injuries with a lump sum payment. You can accept the payment in exchange for not filing a lawsuit or for dismissing a lawsuit if you have filed one.
  • If you cannot settle, or if you cannot determine the insurance company, then you will file a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Once a lawsuit is filed, this is known as litigation. You or your lawyer may file motions or take depositions during the period before trial. Depositions are where a lawyer asks you or witnesses questions under oath with a court reporter outside of court.
  • Before trial, you may enter into mediation with the other side. This is where a trained third party meets with both parties to try to reach a settlement agreement.
  • When you cannot reach a settlement, then a trial occurs with a judge and jury. This is where you prove your case. The jury decides the outcome of the case and any damage amounts.

Understanding Legal Standards for Different Animals

At the trial, the parties must present evidence for their case. Their evidence proves a legal standard for responsibility. The legal standard depends on the type of animal.


That legal standard depends on the state's dog bite laws. Sometimes, the animal's owner must know or should have known the animal was dangerous for a court or jury to say they are responsible.

The following are types of legal standards a state may have, but be sure to check your state's laws before making any decisions:

  • Strict Liability: This makes dog owners responsible for their pet's injuries to someone else. Strict liability means the dog owner is liable for damages caused by their dog, regardless of whether the owner was personally at fault.
  • One Bite RuleThis allows a dog one bite incident. After that incident, the owner is on notice their dog has dangerous tendencies.
  • If no dog bite law imposes strict liability on the dog owner, the injured party must prove that the owner knew (or should have known) that their dog was vicious.
  • Regardless of whether there is a dog bite law, an injured person might be unable to recover. Examples of barriers to recovery include the dog owner showing that the injured person provoked the dog or trespassed.

Exotic and Wild Animals

People who have wild animals as pets are often subject to strict liability. Wild animals are inherently dangerous. For this reason, even if the pet owner tries their best to protect people from their wild animal, the owner can still be liable for an injury. State laws differ for exotic animals.

Domestic Animals

Horses, cats, and other domestic animals are generally treated under the standard negligence rule. The owner is usually liable if they knew (or should have known) that the animal had dangerous tendencies.

Proving Damages With Evidence

You need to be able to prove your position in a case. Evidence is how this happens. There are a few different types of damages that require evidence.

Economic Damages

These are damages you can put a number figure on easily.

  • Medical bills and medical expenses, including future costs.
  • Lost wages from missing work due to injury. This is proven with paystubs and employment records.
  • Property damage. You can prove this by showing receipts of the cost of the property or the cost to replace or repair. An example of this is the cost of replacing a fence.

Noneconomic Damages

These are subjective damages. It requires an expert like a doctor or vocational expert to put a number value on the damage.

  • Pain and Suffering: Distress for which someone may seek damages.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Evidence can be testimony of how the person has changed since the accident.
  • Emotional Distress: Medical and psychological doctors can provide reports and testimony.
  • Loss of ConsortiumThis is a claim by a family member of the injured person, and evidence can be testimony of how the person has changed since the accident.

Proving a Dangerous Dog Attack With Evidence

In states that do not have strict liability for dog bites, the injured party needs to prove that the animal had vicious propensities that the owner knew or should have known about.

There are various factors that a plaintiff can use to help prove their case, such as showing proof:

  • Previous complaints were brought to the owner's attention. If the owner didn't do anything after receiving the complaints, they can be responsible for injuries.
  • Actions by the owner show the dog could be dangerous. Examples are confining or muzzling the dog, telling others, or having a "beware of dog" sign on their fence.

Hiring a Dog Bite Attorney

Dog and animal attack victims may want to consult with a personal injury attorney to determine their legal options. Personal injury attorneys work in different practice areas. Some handle car accidents, while others may focus on dog bites and animal attacks.

Contacting an attorney soon after your injury is in your best interest because there are time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit. Most personal injury lawyers will do a free case evaluation for you.

Learn About Dog Bites and Animal Attacks

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.

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