Thousands of Americans are bitten by the animals annually, usually by the dogs. In many circumstances, the person who is bitten or injured by an animal may have legal rights to recover from the damages from the owner of the animal or another liable party.
When an Animal Bites You
The initial thing you must do if you are injured or bitten by an animal is to seek medical attention right away. When you are untreated, this animal bite can cause severe injury, infection, and death, if the animal is sick. When you are medically assessed and treated, you should also find an experienced attorney with animal bite cases. The lawyer will be able discuss with you if you have potential legal claims and the damages you may be able to recover.
The lawyer will be asking you details about the circumstances that involve your animal bites. You should be able to give the name and telephone number of the owner of the animal. A witness or a neighbor may be able to give this basic information if you do not have it. You should also have the names and contact data of your witnesses.
Dog/Animal Bites Liability of the Owner
The first thing to determine is the identity of the owner of the animal. There are several states that enforce law called “strict liability” on the owners of the animals who attack or bite others. Under the law of strict liability, the owner is legally liable for the animal bite, regardless of whether the owner did something to protect others from the animal bite or attack. Under this theory, although the owner has no reason to know whether his/her animal is dangerous, when the animal bit somebody, the owner is still held responsible. In some states, the owner of the animal can be held responsible for the injuries the animal inflicts, as long as the owner know or has the reason to know, that the animal has potential to harm others. This means that when the animal owner knows that his/her animal is ferocious and can cause injury tooters, the owner of the animal is responsible for the harmful acts of the animal.
In knowing whether the owner knows of the animals “dangerous tendencies”: may be hard. The initial question is to know if the owner needs to know of the specific potential tendency of the animal, or if the owner only needs to know the kind of animal that is potentially dangerous. For instance, when the individual owns a pit bull as a pet, does that necessarily follow that the owner knows or should know that the pet will be dangerous just because, generally, pit bulls can be dangerous?
Probable Defenses in Dog/Animal Bite Lawsuits
There are some instances where the owner of the ferocious animal may not be held responsible for the attack or bite of the animal. For instance, if the owner of the animal has given sufficient warning to others that the animal is ferocious and do some measures to keep the animal away from people, and an individual ignores the warnings of the owner and was bitten or attacked by the animal, the person may not be successful in suing the owner. Legally, the behavior of the injured person is known as “contributory negligence” or “assumption of the risk.” The person who is injured may be negligent when he/she was unable to practice precaution for his/her safety that a reasonable person will do under same situations or circumstances. As an example, when the person climbs over the fence and is bitten by a dog on the other side, the jury can decide not to hold the owner of the dog responsible when they believe that a normal reasonable person will not climb over the wall. Another example will be when the owner places a sign that reads “Beware of Dog”, and then a person ignores the sign and is bitten by the dog, the owner may not be held liable for the injury of the person. In case the owner also claims “assumption of risk” or “contributory negligence,” they owner has the burden of proving to the jury about these arguments.
The owner of the animal may also assert that the injured person has provoked the animal to avoid the liability. For instance, when the person makes a threatening act toward an animal, and the animal attacks and bites, this can contradict the liability of the owner.
Other Probable Responsible Parties
The owners of the animals are not the only persons who can be held liable for the animal attacks or bites. The following are common circumstances where somebody other than the owner of the animal can be held responsible for the animal bite:
- Animal keeper refers to anybody who is in charge to care or custody of an animal is considered as the owner or keeper and can be held liable for the animal bite. Some examples are kennel, a pound, or animal sitter.
- Property owner may be held responsible for the injuries caused by the animal that the owner of the property permitted in his/her property.
- Landlord: When the apartment landlord know or should have known that the tenant has a ferocious animal, the landlord may be held responsible for animal bite injuries.
- Parents of minors: There are several states where an individual is below 18 years old owns the animal at issue, the injured person can file a legal claim against the parents of the minor, although the parents have no direct involvement with the animal.
What are the Possible Damages Can You Recover?
Depending on the severity of the injuries as a result of the animal attack, you may be entitled to recover:
- Lost wages
- The pain and suffering from the animal bites
- Medical expenses
- Property damages
There are cases when you may be entitled to punitive damages, which are given to penalize somebody the behavior. To substantiate an award of punitive damages, the conduct of the wrongdoer usually should be more than negligent like being reckless or has intentional conduct. For instance, when the owner of the dog knows that his/her dog is ferocious, and yet repeatedly permitted the dog to run freely near a public place like school, and the dog attacked a child, the jury can decide that punitive damages are appropriate.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
When the animal has bitten you or someone you love, you may be allowed to recover damages for any injuries sustained from the animal bite. Knowing and understanding your legal rights and options can be very complicated, and you may not know who to file a claim against, and what kind of damages you are entitled to. To make sure that you receive just compensation for your suffering, it is recommended that you find an experienced local attorney who has experience in handling cases of dog/animal bites.
- Dog/Animal Bites FAQ
- Animal Bites: Who Pays the Damages?
- Proving the Owner Knowledge of the Dog’s Viciousness
- Does the Type of Animal Affect a Bite Injury Case?