There are a lot of things dogs do well, companionship being a big one. Unfortunately, another thing all dogs do is bite, no matter the species, the breed or the training.
Certainly, conscientious owners can and should take adequate steps to minimize this instinctive behavior, which means anything from enrolling them in obedience school to socializing them with people to a muzzle. But most medical providers and law enforcement will be quick to say that it only takes one attack to quickly turn “My dog never bites anyone” into “My dog has never bitten anyone until now.”
Dog bites can cause everything from scratches to major injuries, and in rare cases, death. Stitches, hospital visits, and physical therapy may sometimes be required. Biting victims may also suffer from anxiety or mental trauma for years when they’re around other dogs. Biting incidents may cause other injuries and trauma as well, such as if an aggressive dog knocks someone down when they’re walking or biking and then begins to bite them.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, and 1 in 5 of them require medical attention. This works out to about 800,000 people. From this, about half, or 359,223, are children, although adults with two dogs in a home are five times more likely to be bitten. Seniors are also common victims of dog bites.
Bites can take place anywhere on the body, but younger children who are bitten are especially susceptible to being bitten on the head or neck.
Besides causing injuries requiring medical care, dog bites can also be expensive.The Insurance Information Institute reported that dog bites and related injures represented about one-third of all homeowner insurance liability claim pay-outs in 2014, to the tune of $530 million nationwide. While the total number of bites nationwide slightly decreased from the previous year, the average amounts paid in claims grew to more than $32,000 from $27,800 in 2013.This rose to $37,329 in 2015, according to the AVMA.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite and you are interested in seeking relief to help with your expenses, consider the services of J. Allan Brown of the Law Office of J. Allan Brown, LLC, who can provide legal expertise and support in this difficult and painful time.
Why dogs bite
There are several circumstances why a dog might attack:
- Defending someone or something (puppies, household members, property)
- Law enforcement using a trained K-9 officer to track and subdue a suspect, especially in situations believed to be less safe for human officers
- Playing, where a dog could bite harder than a human expects
- If they’re hurt, startled or feel threatened or frightened
- If they feel a compulsion to chase someone running, biking or walking quickly
- If they’re fighting with another animal and someone tries to interrupt
- Poor training in socialization with people and other dogs
- Irresponsible owners who promote aggression
No more ‘one bite’ rules
Ultimately, trying to guess the reason why a bite takes place isn’t as important legally as the knowledge of the owner, who is usually the first one held liable in an attack. State laws vary but generally the owner can be liable if he or she knew or should have known that their dog could attack and hurt someone or tried to stop it.
Traditionally, the common law standard in dog bite cases has been referred to as the “one bite rule,” requiring a bite victim to prove that a dog’s owner knew of the possibility of a bite taking place and did nothing about it.
Proving this knowledge could sometimes be a challenge unless there was clear evidence of past statements from the owner, other reports of aggression from the dog, or observations from witnesses about aggressive behavior or poor training. Over time this evolved into the theory that every dog potentially could receive “one free bite” before it was officially established to be dangerous.
Too often, this left the victims responsible for any costs of care, but with at least some hope that the next time the same dog bit someone, the same owner couldn’t use the “I didn’t know” defense.
However, in the last few decades, some states, including Alabama, have shifted the legal burden from “one bite” to something called “strict liability.” This standard relies less on an owner’s knowledge and ability to stop an attack, and more on the actions of the victim and the dog.
- Did the dog attack without being provoked?
- Was the victim legally allowed to be where the attack occurred?
Other laws may come into play which can affect any legal arguments or settlement discussions, such as municipal leash laws which require owners to keep their dogs secure. An attack on public property by a dog running loose may be treated differently than a dog biting a trespasser on private property that includes signage warning intruders about a dog’s presence. Some municipalities may pass local ordinances against certain breeds as well.
Call for a free consultation
Experienced dog bite attorney J. Allan Brown has intimate knowledge of the strict liability law where dog bites are considered, and is willing to help victims receive fair compensation for any injuries directly connected to an attack, along with any lost wages, future earnings, or other damages due to the attack.
He also can assist in finding appropriate medical professionals with experience in treating severe and extensive dog bites, including quality plastic/reconstructive surgeons, physical therapists or mental health providers. J. Allan founded his firm to help victims pursue compensation they need to recover and move forward in life due to the actions of dangerous dogs or negligent owners.
For a free consultation from an experienced dog big attorney, contact J. Allan Brown in Mobile at 251.473.6691 or contact us online. This firm provides personal injury services on a contingency-fee basis. You pay no attorney fees until you obtain a settlement or award for your case.