Animal Bites - An Overview
Suing For An Animal Bite Injury
Animal bites pose a significant public health problem in children and adults worldwide and a very common cause for a premises liability case. Approximately 4.5 million people suffer dog bites in the U.S each year, with about 900,000 of them requiring some form of medical care. If you have suffered a dog bite or any other animal bite, the owner may be responsible for your damages. Animal bite litigation is relatively straight forward, but we have provided an overview of what to expect below.
When Is The Owner Responsible In an Animal Bite Case?
Depending on the state you live in, there may be different laws for dog owner liability. A majority of the states hold dog owners liable even if the dog has never bitten before. Other states provide the owner “one free bite.”
The One Bite Rule or Dangerous Dog Standard
An animal owner is not liable for the animal’s bite until they have reason to know that the animal might bite. This law does not necessarily require a prior bite, just for the owner to know their animal is dangerous. In order to determine whether an animal is dangerous, many factors are considered, including:
● Aggressive behavior
● Previous complaints about the animal
● Whether the owner regularly keeps the animal confined or muzzled because of behavior
If a dog is deemed to be a dangerous animal, the owner will be responsible for any subsequent bite injury.
Is The Dog Owner Automatically Responsible?
The majority of states have laws making the owner automatically liable for injuries resulting from their dog’s bite. These laws do not require proof of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s violent nature or previous incidents. The owner is responsible simply because their dog caused the injury.
What About Trespassers? What if the Dog Was Taunted?
In all states, there are exceptions to the owner’s liability. Almost all states consider the owner not responsible for a dog bite to a trespasser. Additionally, if the victim provoked the dog by abusing or taunting the dog, the owner will likely not be responsible. However, if the taunting occurred while playing with the dog, victims have a chance to recover, but it will depend on the circumstances.
What If The Victim Is a Professional?
There is also something called “the assumption of risk.” Assumption of risk occurs when the plaintiff understands the risks before undertaking an activity. This often happens in dog bite cases when a dog bites a dog care professional such as a vet, vet tech, or dog sitter. When these professionals care for the dog, they assume the risk of the dog biting them. However, if the owner knew of a dog’s violent propensities, they may be required to warn the dog professional of the risk.
Animal Bites on The Owner's Property
If the animal bites on the owner’s property, they will be held liable under premises liability. While the dog bite is the cause of the injury, the lawsuit may be brought under premises liability because it occurred on the owner’s land. To be responsible under premises liability, the owner must have acted unreasonably given the situation. Furthermore, the owner’s actions must have resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.
Did you slip and fall on someone else’s property? You could be eligible for compensation. Learn more about slip and fall lawsuits through our articles or reach out to one of our million-dollar lawyers today.
Step-By-Step Litigation of an Animal Bite Case
Step 1 - Keeping track of medical records
Once you receive medical treatment, you should begin preparing for the legal process. This includes finding any pictures that were taken of your injuries if they are visible. Because animal bites tend to leave scars, tracking the progress of your scars’ healing process will help prove the extent of the injuries. Also, monitoring and recording your medical treatments in real-time will make it easier in the future to provide this information to your attorney.
Step 2 - Finding a lawyer
The next step in an animal bite case is finding a lawyer. When looking for a lawyer, don’t just type into Google “personal injury lawyer.” It’s just too broad. You want expertise specifically within the animal or dor bite space. Ideally, it would be great to find a lawyer who’s already tried a case with the same specific type of animal and injury.
Step 3 - filing The Lawsuit
It’s now time to file the lawsuit. Assuming you have a lawyer representing you, your involvement should be minimal. Once the lawsuit is filed, you will move into the discovery stage. During this time, your attorney will receive requests for information from the defendant’s attorney. Many times, your attorney will be contacting you to collect any information required to respond to the defence. You will also have to attend a deposition, where the other side will ask you questions about the animal bite and your injuries.
Step 4 - Negotiation, Settlement, and Trial
Once the discovery process is over, the sides will then begin negotiating. This process can be over quickly but can also take a long time. Keep in mind that your attorney is required to advise you of any offer the defense makes. If you cannot reach an agreement, the sides will move forward to court assisted settlement discussions involving mediations or settlement conferences with the court. If these options fail, then the court will order an arbitration or have a trial.
Finding The Right Lawyer For Your Animal Bite Case
Before jumping into a lawsuit, it is smart to consult with a personal injury attorney. The majority of personal injury law firms handle animal and dog bite cases, making finding a great attorney difficult because there are so many options. There are big firms, small firms, sole practitioners, and the dreaded settlement mills. Please do your homework before settling on an attorney and make sure it’s the right fit for you. Having the right lawyer on your side could make a big difference in terms of how much compensation you may be eligible to receive.