Dog Bite Laws: What You Should Know
Americans love their pets. In fact, according to recent statistics, 85 million families in the United States have a pet. Not surprisingly, dogs are the most popular type of pet, with just over 60 million households having one. While many people think of their dog as a loyal companion, this type of animal is also known to bite and cause serious injuries.
Here are four things you should know about dog bite injuries.
- Know How to Protect Yourself From Dog Bites
One of the first things you can do to protect yourself is understand why dogs bite. Some of these reasons include:
- The dog is feeling stressed.
- The dog is defending itself or its territory.
- The dog is protecting toys, food, or other valuables.
- The dog is scared or startled.
- The dog is sick or sore and wants to be left alone.
There are also certain breeds that are more prone to biting people. The breeds that are considered some of the most dangerous include pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, American bulldogs, and huskies. In order to protect yourself against dog bites, you should always be extra vigilant when encountering any of these breeds.
You should teach your children to be cautious as well. You should also remember that despite the fact that some breeds are more prone to biting than other breeds, any dog, even the cuddliest and most even-tempered breed, may bite when threatened.
- Know the Types of Injuries Dog Bites Cause
Unfortunately, even when doing all you can to protect yourself, you might still get bitten by a dog. Because of their sharp teeth, a dog bite can easily cause puncture wounds and injuries to the eyes, face, head, and neck. Dog bites can also cause extreme amounts of blood loss, serious infections, ugly scars, and permanent nerve damage.
These types of injuries are usually serious enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room. In some cases, dog bite injuries even cause the victim to become hospitalized. Unfortunately, hospitalizations due to dog bite injuries are becoming increasingly common in Arizona.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, during a four-year period, the number of inpatient hospitalizations from dog bites increased 139 percent. In those four years, 2,358 people were hospitalized for at least one night after getting bitten by a dog, and more than 34,000 people were treated in the emergency room.
- Know What to Do After a Dog Bites You
If you get bitten by a dog that does not belong to you, the first thing you should do is get medical attention right away. Also take pictures of your wounds, which will help if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the dog. You will need to get the dog owner’s contact information as well.
If other people witnessed the incident, you should also get their contact information. In order to prevent the dog from injuring others, you will need to file a report with animal control.
As you recover from your injuries, assess your mental health status, as some dog bites can cause emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have experienced either of these, you may want to see a mental health counselor.
- Know the Legal Ramifications of a Dog Bite
Not all dog bites result in a personal injury case. However, if you can prove that the dog’s owner acted irresponsibly, you should file a personal injury case. For instance, if the dog owner did not have their dog on a leash, and then it attacked you when you walked by, the owner should be held responsible.
You will also need to prove that you did not provoke the dog in any way and that you were legally allowed to be in the place where the dog bit you. If you can prove that the owner should be responsible, the dog’s owner will have to compensate you for the following:
- Medical costs, including doctor and hospital bills, medications, physical therapy, counseling, and any other type of necessary treatment
- Pain and suffering associated with the dog bite or dog attack
- Loss of wages due to treatment and recovery from injuries
In some states, dogs are allowed one free bite before legal action is taken against the owner. This is not the case in Arizona, as the state does not have a one-bite law.
Dog bite cases can be rather complicated and the relevant laws tend to vary from state to state. Luckily, when it comes to determining who is responsible for your dog bite injury, Washington is a “strict liability” state. This means that as long as you or the person injured in the dog attack did not provoke the animal, nor were you trespassing on someone else’s property, then the dog owner is liable for any damages caused by the dog’s bites. All you need to determine this liability is proof that the dog bite did indeed cause you injuries. A dog bite attorney with the Advocates is experienced in collecting the evidence needed to determine who is at-fault for your dog bite injury.
Homeowners Insurance Policies
The last thing dog bite victims want to do after being injured in a dog attack is to read a dense and confusing insurance policy. Since most dog bites occur in the home of a neighbor, a friend, or even a family member, many dog bite victims are hesitant about pursuing a dog bite injury claim. We get it. Nobody wants to sue a friend.
What most people don’t know is that in the state of Washington, the dog bite owner’s home insurance policy is what will compensate you for your injuries and losses. Thankfully, homeowners insurance generally covers any dog bite by the policy holder’s dog. Getting an insurance company to cover these types of claims usually isn’t the problem. What is a problem is figuring out if a dog’s owner has some sort of homeowners/renter’s liability policy in the first place. This is why hiring a dog bite lawyer is instrumental in getting you the settlement you deserve.
It is certainly unfair that dog bite victims are forced to miss work due to a serious dog bite injury. In Washington State, you may be entitled to compensation for any lost wages and damages suffered from the dog attack. The dog bite attorneys at the Advocates are skilled in helping victims recover the compensation they are rightfully owed for their injuries and losses. Our dog bite lawyers are experts in Washington State laws regarding unprovoked dog attacks. We have handled and fought for thousands of dog bite victims all throughout the state.
Retrieving workers compensation for an unwarranted dog attack can feel like a huge hassle. No one should have to go through the aftermath of a dog bite on their own. Our dog bite attorneys will help you every step of the way.
Breed-Specific Legislation for Dog Attacks and Its Effect on Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury cases based on the breed of a dog can have serious effects through differentiation of the breed and any laws that exist that govern this dog and any injury through attack or bite either provoked or not. Knowing what these laws are, the victim can either increase the strength of the claim or, depending on the circumstances, lessen the strength of the defense.
Getting Rid of the Dog Entirely
There are some states that pass legislation that require the owners of certain breeds to get rid of the dog no matter if the animal is a service dog, comfort animal or part of the family. With these laws in place, the dog can face removal by force and destruction. These laws pass because of past grievous wounds and deaths by the breed and will require other changes to both criminal and civil processes. Breed specific laws can change what the owner can do, what happens in litigation and what outcome is possible based on the circumstances of an incident.
Personal Injury Cases and Dog Breeds
When there is a breed-specific law in place that affects the outcome of a case, it usually benefits the plaintiff when he or she suffered injury because of the dog. The laws increase the strength of the claim because the owner either irresponsibly, unreasonably or unlawfully bred or acquired the dog in violation of the state breed-specific laws that prevent these actions. If the state has strict liability as well as these other laws, the defendant may have little recourse to paying damages when the victim can use the laws against him or her.
The Incident and Injury
If there is a breed-specific law in place in the state where the individual suffered the injury, he or she can use the legislation against the owner of the dog. The injury usually is more severe based on the type of dog, the propensity for damage and how aggressive the animal is generally. The incident may also involve other factors that can increase the strength of the claim such as when the owner of the dog breeds a dangerous animal against city regulations. With all the relevant facts known and in place within the claim, the plaintiff may have a greater chance of success against the defendant.
Complete Bans on the Breed
There are some states that ban the ownership and breeding completely of certain breeds of dog. The state may even warn an owner that having that breed will lead to immediate seizure and destruction if the individual does not comply with the state ban. Other states always have breed-specific limitations for ownership or conditions such as keeping the animal on a leash when outside or not letting the dog out of the house without proper supervision. Other laws could establish a presumption that the breed is dangerous or can inflict greater harm or injury.
The Personal Injury Case with the Breed-Specific Laws
The effect on the personal injury claim when the owner of the breed banned in the state or that has very strict control or conditions of ownership usually extend to multiple aspects of the case. The bite or attack must have medical documentation that the dog caused the injury along with corroboration from a medical professional to that effect. If the state has a strict ban or provides the city with the ability to ban ownership or breeding of certain breeds of dogs, the person that owns the animal involved in the attack could face multiple penalties.
Documenting a Dog Bite
In addition to the first steps outlined above, documentation is also a key component of what to do after a dog bite. First, document any injuries associate with the bite, including visible injuries and the effects of those injuries, such as pain, decreased mobility, and inability to perform certain functions. This documentation can be in the form of photos, journal entries, medical records, and other written records. Additionally, soon after the incident, write down the events and circumstances surrounding the bite with as much detail as you can remember.
Since you may be dealing with an insurance company or a lawsuit, it’s a good idea to document any correspondence you have with others, including witnesses, other parties, and the insurance company itself. In addition, keep records of expenses you incur as a result of the dog bite, such as medical bills, lost wages, and travel costs. The more documentation you have regarding the incident, the easier it will be to assess the amount of compensation you deserve for your injuries.
What is the One Free Bite Rule?
Under traditional Common Law, the liability of a landowner for an animal attack arose out of premises liability. If a landowner was aware of a dangerous condition on his property—including a dog—he had a duty to protect and/or warn certain persons of the danger. This is called the “One Free Bite Rule” or “One Bite Rule” for short. Until a dog displays hostile behavior toward a person, the owner was basically relieved of responsibility if he attacked someone unprovoked. Once the dog had attacked someone, the owner became charged with the knowledge, and a duty to protect or warn arose.
This law is still in effect. Because the burden of proving knowledge can be very difficult, this is the hardest way to make a case against an irresponsible pet owner. In order to prove a case, you must generally find evidence of prior attacks or aggressive behavior. Contacting the local animal control department is one resource we use to research prior attacks and bites by a pet. Often people who live in the neighborhood will have knowledge of other times the dog has escaped and attacked people or displayed aggression.
Witness interviews can be critical early on before the events fade or persons with knowledge move away. It is important that you have a Houston dog bite attorney with the resources and knowledge to do the proper investigation.