Dog Bite Legal Info
Dog Bite Overview
Four-legged pups can turn from man’s best friend into a foe in the blink of an eye.
Research shows that more than 36% of households own at least one dog. At the same time, nearly five million people are bitten by one each year and one in five of those will require medical attention for their injuries.
If you’ve been injured on account of an animal owner’s negligence, explore the legal claim process and why you need a dog bite lawyer for maximum compensation.
If you’ve experienced a dog bite, pursuing legal action could help you recoup some of your losses. Before you pursue this route, it’s smart to have an experienced dog bite lawyer on your side.
Today, we’re sharing why it pays to partner with an attorney who specializes in dog bite cases just like yours. Read on to learn the perks of hiring expert representation, and how our team can help you fight for your rights, starting today.
The Compensation You Deserve
While at least 4.7 million Americans fall victim to a dog bite every year, insurance companies only pay a small fraction of sufferers.
Why do so many dog bites go uncompensated? Because so many go unreported.
While you could self-represent, winning your claim hinges on your ability to prove liability. In other words, you’ll have to present unrefutable proof that the dog’s owner is responsible for your injury.
This is where most people come up short. It’s human nature to blame yourself or assume you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. You might say things such as, “I must have provoked the dog” or “I shouldn’t have been running.” It only takes one such sentence for an insurance agent to shift the guilt onto your shoulders.
To improve your chance of getting justice, it’s imperative to have someone on your side who can advise you on the proper steps required to prove liability.
Filing a claim against a dog owner for injuries suffered after a bite is akin to the same process you’d follow after a car accident or workplace injury. A dog bite lawyer can advise you on how to begin gathering critical evidence as soon as possible. Note that there is a Statute of Limitations in place for these kinds of cases, limiting how much time you have to file, so it’s important to act quickly.
How to Prove Liability in a Dog Bite Case: At the Scene
Immediately after a dog bite occurs, it’s important to call 911. From there, there are a few pieces of key evidence you can begin creating or gathering to help you prove your case in the event of a dog bite lawsuit. These include:
- A police report
- A report to your local animal control department
- The owner’s contact information
- Photographs and videos of the bite marks, dog and the scene where the bite occurred
- Written witness statements
Depending on the circumstances, your initial call to 911 might result in the operator dispatching the police, an ambulance, and your local animal control personnel. Even if the latter aren’t contacted, it’s still wise to go ahead and call Animal Control.
Why? Animal control experts have the right to learn as much as possible about the dog that bit you. This includes taking the following actions:
- Ordering that the dog be tested for rabies and similar viruses
- Ordering the owner to confine or muzzle the dog
- Taking temporary ownership of the dog for evaluation
- Issuing citations and fines to the dog owner
All of these steps could result in paperwork that proves favorable to your case.
Remember: While it’s important to gather photographic evidence of the event, you never want to place yourself back in the line of danger just to get a good shot.
Did your clothes get messed up in the attack? When you arrive home, rather than washing your clothes as soon as you’re able to, preserve them. If they’re torn or bloody, put them in their as-is condition into a clean, dated box to use as evidence later.
How to Prove Liability in a Dog Bite Case: During Recovery
If you left the scene in an ambulance, your medical treatment will begin right after the bite. Or, you might seek medical attention in the days following the accident.
Even if the bite seems minor, it’s important to get the bite checked out by your physician. Some of the most common injuries that can occur as a result of a dog bite or similar animal attack include:
- Superficial abrasions
- Puncture wounds
- Loss of fingers
- Nerve damage
- Blood loss
- Bite wounds
- Rabies infection
While most of these concerns will be obvious right as they occur, others, such as nerve damage or a rabies infection, might not show up immediately. As such, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible after the bite occurs.
Throughout your treatment, you’ll need to continue gathering evidence. All of the documentation you collect will help your attorney prove your claim in court. The key pieces to keep include:
- Medical bills
- Your emergency room admittance chart
- All physician’s notes
- Test results
- Other hospital records
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Why You Need a Dog Bite Lawyer on Your Side
While the above-mentioned records might be relatively simple to acquire, it’s important to understand that proving dog bite liability is more than sheer recordkeeping.
First, different jurisdictions have varying legal mandates that govern the circumstances surrounding a dog bite. These include:
- Leash and muzzle requirements
- Dog registration processes
- Definitions of dangerous breeds
What’s applicable in one state or county might not hold true in the next city over. A dog bite lawyer will be well-versed in your local regulations. Two of the most common variations include the One-Bite Rule versus Strict Liability.
Some states abide by what’s known as the One-Bite Rule. In short, this allows dog owners to escape legal responsibility if their dog bites someone a single time. The reasoning is that in this case, the dog owner likely had no reason to suspect that his or her dog would bite.
The caveat and workaround? While this applies to liability, you can still proceed with a claim if you can prove that the owner was negligent. The difference?
Liability is a legal term that means responsibility. On the other hand, negligence occurs when a dog owner does something wrong or fails to act reasonably, such as failing to keep their dog restrained on a leash or in a fenced-in yard.
Similar to other injury claims, you’ll need to prove four critical elements of negligence to convince a court or insurance adjuster that an owner should cover your losses. These include:
- That the owner had a duty of careto keep the dog from harming others
- That the dog owner breached that duty by performing or failing to perform an action to prevent their dog from attacking
- That the owner’s negligence immediately caused your injuries.
- You have real, actual injuries that you can support with documented evidence.
Other states have a Strict Liability law.
This means that a dog owner is always responsible for the damage that his or her dog causes. The only exception would be if you were trespassing on their property or purposefully provoking the dog. In addition, police dog handlers and military personnel are normally exempt from such claims if the dog was on active duty.
California is a strict liability state. This means that dog owners can still be held liable even if they claim they had no reason to believe the dog would attack, bite or act aggressively.
The Issue of Shared Blame
Even if you’ve performed all of the right steps, gathered the evidence and done everything else you were supposed to do, there is one factor that could still negatively impact your claim: shared blame.
In this case, there are three different rules that your jurisdiction could follow. These include:
- Contributory Negligence Rule
- Pure Comparative Fault Rules
- Modified Comparative Negligence Rule
In states that follow the contributory negligence rule, your claim can be completely denied if the dog owner can prove that you were even partially to blame in the dog attack. A pure comparative fault rule falls on the other side of the spectrum. In states that follow this rule, including California, you can be up to 99% to blame for the attack and still seem compensation for your damages.
Most states fall somewhere in the middle and apply modified comparative negligence rules. This means your claim can only be denied if you’re equally (50%) to blame or more (51%) to blame than the dog owner for the situation that provoked the attack. In this case, even if your claim isn’t fully denied, it could still be reduced according to how much fault you share.
The key to navigating these rules and making them work for you? Team with a dog bite lawyer who knows the laws in your jurisdiction forward and backward and is prepared to help you gather as much information and documentation as possible to prove your case.
Legal Help Can Make All the Difference
When you’ve been the victim of a dog bite, time is of the essence.
It’s critical to begin compiling as much evidence as possible to support your case. In addition, you’ll need to understand your local legalities and the correct steps to follow if you decide to take your case to court.
Of course, you shouldn’t have to worry about any of this. You should be busy recovering and treating any wounds you experienced, focused only on getting better. You need a qualified and reputable team of attorneys by your side.
If you’re looking for an experienced dog bite lawyer who can fight for your rights, we’d love to connect. Contact our office and let’s take these next steps together.