Every dog bite injury case is different, and the evidence of who is liable is in the details. However, in most cases, the law holds the dog owner responsible when someone suffers an injury from an attack. If a dog attacked you, you have the right to seek compensation for your damages and any resulting losses. However, you may want to speak with a personal injury attorney with experience representing dog bite victims. They can answer your questions about liability, given the case’s specific details.
How Does Liability Work in a Dog Bite Case?
The laws that govern dog bite cases come from the state and local governments. For example, some states abide by the “one-bite” rule when determining liability in a dog bite case. This rule generally relieves the dog owner of liability if they had no reason to suspect the dog was dangerous. However, if the dog had a history of aggressive behavior, such as vicious barking or chasing cars and people, the owner could be held liable the first time the dog attacked someone. The “one-bite” rule is only applicable in a few states. Most states apply the strict liability rule.
Strict Liability States
Only 16 states impose the “one-bite” rule. The rest follow statutes that adhere to strict liability. In the simplest terms, strict liability says that a dog owner is responsible for their dog’s actions in certain situations regardless of any effort to keep the dog from harming anyone or stopping a dog once it starts to attack. Therefore, if you suffered an injury from a dog attack in a strict liability state, you could likely recover damages by filing a claim with the dog owner’s insurance company. However, the case can become slightly more complicated if the details of your case match the exceptions to strict liability.
Exceptions to Strict Liability
While strict liability generally makes the dog owner responsible for a dog attack, some states mandate that the dog owner not be held liable under certain conditions. For example, the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute says the injured party in a dog attack case is not eligible for compensation if one of the following applies to their circumstance:
- They trespassed on someone else’s property when the attack occurred. For example, if you broke into someone’s home or crossed someone’s yard without permission, that could relieve the dog owner of responsibility in the event of an attack.
- They committed another tort at the time of the attack. So, for example, if the dog attacked because you assaulted its owner, you would be liable for the attack.
- They provoked the dog. If you teased, abused, or tormented the dog and it attacked in self-defense, you would be liable.
Details and unique circumstances in these cases are essential. For example, the court may not treat the incident the same if a child unintentionally provoked the dog or if the dog owner acted unreasonably when someone technically trespassed on their property. To better understand liability and the negligence question under the specific circumstances of your case, you would benefit from scheduling a free consultation with an attorney with experience in similar cases.
Can the Dog Owner Be Criminally and Civilly Liable?
In some cases, the dog owner can be both criminally and civilly liable. For example, in Massachusetts, the dog owner may face criminal charges if they encourage or command their dog to attack you. Suppose you got into an argument with one of your neighbors, and that neighbor became aggressive and signaled for the dog to attack. In that case, they would likely face criminal charges, potentially assault with a deadly weapon.
If the state prosecution punishes the dog owner for their actions, you still have the right to file a claim with their insurance or sue them directly for damages. These cases are in separate courts and have different declarations. The criminal court may require them to pay fines, but you do not receive that money. You could file a civil case to get the compensation you need to recover from your financial and physical losses.
What Damages Can You Recover From a Dog Bite Case?
To file a claim from a dog bite accident, you must provide evidence that the defendant owed you a duty of care and failed to uphold it, resulting in the attack that caused your injuries. If you can prove that claim, the court will allow you to recover your losses, which the law refers to as economic and non-economic damages.
Your economic damages are the apparent losses that affected you financially. Some examples may include:
- The cost of medical care for your injuries, including ambulance expenses, emergency department care, prescriptions, necessary medical devices, hospital and doctor visits, and ongoing care, such as rehabilitation
- The income lost from work you missed during recovery or a decrease in wages if your injuries resulted in a loss of earning capacity
- The cost to replace damaged property if the dog destroyed any of your valuable belongings during the attack
The damages from every accident can vary. For example, if you could not drive due to your injuries, you could also include the cost of transportation during your recovery. One benefit of having an attorney is they will identify and calculate your losses.
Non-economic damages are more general than economic damages. The non-economic losses refer to how the accident and injuries affect you psychologically. Examples include the physical and emotional pain and suffering endured, the loss of life’s enjoyment, and any mental health diagnosis, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The severity of your injuries and the nature of the attack will directly affect these losses.
Do You Need a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer?
If you suffered an injury resulting from a dog attack, you deserve compensation for your losses. While not all cases require legal representation, you have nothing to lose from speaking with an attorney about the specifics of your case and what legal options you have available to you. In addition, should an attorney decide to take your case, you will have all the advantages that come with an experienced legal expert handling your case:
- They act in your place during all communication with the insurance company.
- They protect your right to compensation and adequately value your losses.
- They negotiate a settlement so you can avoid the lengthy trial process.
- They investigate the attack to find evidence that supports your claim of the dog owner’s negligence.
- They represent you in court if the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement.
The dog bite injury attorneys at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers understand the devastation that can result from a dog attack. We have worked with victims of dog bite injuries and seen the financial, psychological, and physical damage these cases can cause. Our commitment is to help clients get the compensation they need to rebuild their lives or adapt to a new way of living. We do what we can to help alleviate some of the financial burdens by charging no upfront fees for our services. The Stone Cold Guarantee‘s first element states that we do not receive payment until you get paid. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers today for your free consultation.