Dog Bites: Liability from the Owner’s Point of View
According to the Center of Disease Control, there are over 800,000 dog bite victims every year in the US. 1 out of every 5 of these injuries require medical attention in a hospital emergency room. In 2013, 32 fatalities occurred from dog bites. Pit bulls contribute the most to these numbers with the breed accounting for 78% of bites.
Although you may love dogs, the numbers show that any dog might feel threatened by a stranger. If you or a loved one are among the many dog bite victims in the US, you can receive compensation for your medical bills and other expenses.
By understanding the dog owner’s point of view, you will have a better idea of how to prove your case. Follow these steps and resolve the situation in your favor.
Get Medical Attention Immediately
No matter the severity of the bite, or who is at fault, you need immediate medical attention. Dog bites can cause infection or even death. If you don’t take care of the wound quickly, the situation could turn from a simple accident into an emotional, legal, and financial nightmare.
The owner should assure the victim that he or she will cover any medical treatment. Ask for the owner’s contact information, and let him or her assist you where appropriate. For example, the dog owner may be able to drive you to the emergency room or at least provide information about the dog’s history.
There is no reason for the situation to turn ugly if both parties are helpful and reasonable.
Determine Who is Liable
Dog bite law is different in each state. Many have strict liability laws for the owner of an animal involved in an attack. In the strictest of states, the owner is legally liable, no matter what the defense. In other words, the owner is liable whether the dog has a history of biting people and no matter what steps the owner took to protect others from his or her pet. All costs of the injury fall to the owner, and he or she may even need to have the pet put down.
In other states, you must prove that the owner knew of the pet’s dangerous propensities. Consult an experienced attorney for the specifics of “strict liability” in your state.
Plan Your Case
Don’t assume that responsibility will fall to the owner. In states that don’t always hold the owner accountable, dog owners can defend themselves in this situation.
The owner could show that he or she took measures to warn others of danger, such as posting signs or installing proper fencing. These measures count as an effort to keep the animal away from the general public. This is evidence in favor of the defense.
Victims who are bitten after ignoring such warnings have shown some degree of accountability for their own injuries. The legalese for this defense is “contributory negligence” and “assumption of the risk.” Both terms mean that the victim failed to exercise the proper care needed for safety that a reasonable person would show under similar circumstances.
For example, a jury may not to hold the owner liable if the victim climbed over a fence where the owner kept the vicious animal isolated. In this instance, the jury could decide that a reasonable person would not have climbed over the wall in the first place. A “Beware of
Dog” sign on the fence would add even more to this defense.
Of course, there are no “sure things” in the legal system. If the dog owner claims assumption of risk or contributory negligence, he or she has to convince the jury that the steps taken were enough to absolve liability.
The dog owner could also argue that the victim provoked the dog. Such provocation could include startling the animal on purpose or approaching the dog in a threatening way.
One thing is sure. To avoid liability and the associated costs, contact an experienced attorney and discuss what to do after a dog bite.