What Should I Do If I Am Bit By A Dog on Private Property?

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Although dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend, dog bite accidents can and do occur. Victims of a dog bite attack may be able to pursue compensation for their injuries by filing a claim against the dog’s owner or other responsible party.  This article will discuss important aspects of a dog bite injury, including common causes of dog bites, what parties may be held liable, and what forms of compensation may be available to a dog bite victim.

If you have been the victim of a dog bite and are interested in pursuing legal action, or if you would like to learn more about your rights following a dog bite accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive a free case evaluation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

HOW DOES THE LOCATION OF A DOG ATTACK AFFECT THE CASE?

Dog owners have a general duty to exercise reasonable care in supervising and controlling their animal.  Generally, this remains true whether the dog bite occurred on private or public property.

However, a dog owner may be able to avoid liability in certain cases involving trespassers.  If a person is attacked by a person’s dog while unlawfully trespassing onto the dog owner’s private property, liability may be avoided.  Because the laws regarding dog bites may vary from state to state, victims of dog attacks should consider consulting with a personal injury attorney to determine what legal options may be available.

COMMON CAUSES OF DOG BITES

A dog attack can occur for many reasons.  Understanding the reasons why a dog may attack a person may help prevent a future dog bite from occurring.  Listed below are some of the common causes of dog bite accidents.

Provocation

Many dog bite accidents occur because the animal was provoked.  Examples of actions that may provoke a dog include hitting a dog, yelling at a dog, barking at a dog, chasing a dog, and teasing a dog.  A dog who is provoked may feel intimidated or threatened and may react by attacking the provoker.

Protection  

Dogs are territorial creatures.  As a result, many dogs may feel the need to protect their owners, food, toys, and territory.  If someone tries to grab a dog’s toy or approach a dog’s litter, the animal may instinctively try to protect itself by biting or chasing the person.

Horseplay

Horseplay is another common cause of dog bite accidents.  Although playing with a dog may be fun, a dog may become aggressive after rough or extended horseplay.  It is important to realize that even friendly dogs may be provoked after rough horseplay. 

Wild Dog

Dog bite accidents may occur even if all precautions are taken.  A dog that is untrained, neglected, or abused may spontaneously attack an unwitting person.  Thus, it is very important to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to dogs who are loose or exhibiting signs of aggressiveness.

COMMON INJURIES

Skin wounds

The most common injury associated with a dog bite is the flesh wound that is caused by the dog’s teeth sinking into the victim’s skin.  In some cases, the wound may be small.  In other cases, the wound can lead to immediate bleeding and bruising.  Regardless of the severity of the injury, it is a wise decision to seek prompt medical attention after a dog bite attack.  

Muscle damage

A serious dog bite can be more than just a flesh wound.  Such bites often result in damage to the victim’s muscles or nerves.  These types of injuries are especially common when the dog is a larger breed such as a Pit Bull, Rottweiler, or German Shepherd.  Damage to the muscles and nerves may require stitches or rehabilitative treatment. 

Infections

In addition to potential skin and nerve wounds, a dog bite may also lead to an infection.  The risk of infection increases with time.  If a wound is not promptly and properly treated, an infection may result.

Rabies

Rabies is caused by a virus that enters a person’s nervous system and causes inflammation to a person’s brain.  A dog who has rabies may transfer the virus to a human by biting or scratching.  The symptoms of rabies are flu-like in nature and may include fever and muscle weakness.  Although rabies is treatable, time is of the essence after a dog attack.

WHAT TO DO AFTER BEING BITTEN BY A DOG

1. Seek medical attention

The first step you should take after being bitten by a dog is to seek immediate medical attention. Because even small bites may pose future health concerns, medical attention should be sought even in cases where the injury does not appear to be severe.   

2. File a report and document the accident

The next step you should take after being bitten by a dog is to file a report with police or the appropriate local animal control agency, particularly if the dog is not yours.  Filing a report will create an official record of the accident and may help prevent future attacks.

3. Contact a personal injury lawyer

Finally, you should contact a personal injury lawyer.  This is the next step toward filing and resolving a dog bite claim.  A lawyer may gather the facts of your case, search for and collect important evidence, and file any paperwork in order to ensure that a lawsuit is timely filed.

Learn More: Why Hiring a Lawyer Will Help Your Case

DETERMINING LIABILITY

A dog owner or other at fault party may be held liable for a dog attack if the dog bite victim can establish certain elements.  The elements that must be established in order to prove liability depend on whether the action pursued is strict liability or negligence. 

Strict Liability

If a dog bite victim sues a dog owner under a theory of strict liability, the victim will need to establish certain elements.  Those elements include:

  • a person suffers serious bodily injury or death;
  • due to a bite by a dog;
  • while lawfully on public or private property;
  • and the person did not intentionally provoke the dog

Negligence

If a dog bite victim sues a dog owner under a theory of negligence, the victim must establish the following elements.  

1. Duty

The first part of proving a negligence suit is establishing that the dog owner owed a duty of care to the dog bite victim.  To establish the duty element in dog bite cases, the victim must show that the dog’s owner had a duty to act as a reasonably prudent person would by taking reasonable and necessary precautions to ensure that the dog could not harm anyone.

2. Breach of duty

The second part of proving a negligence suit is establishing that the dog owner breached the applicable duty of care owed to the injured individual.  In the case of a dog bite, the victim can establish a breach of duty by showing that the dog owner failed to have his dog on a leash or that the owner failed to properly supervise his dog.

Proving this element may require evidence such as witness statements, expert testimony, and surveillance footage.  Such evidence may be collected by an attorney throughout the investigation phase of a dog bite claim.

3. Causation

The third element of a negligence claim is establishing a link between the dog owner’s breach of duty and the harm sustained by the dog bite victim.  In other words, the victim must prove that the dog owner’s negligence directly or foreseeably caused the victim’s injuries. 

4. Damages

The final element of a negligence claim is damages.  Proving damages means proving that the injured party suffered some type of harm, either physically or financially.  In cases of dog bites, if the elements of duty, breach, and causation are established, damages may ordinarily be presumed. 

LAWSUITS FOR DOG BITES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY?

Victims of dog bites may be able to pursue compensation for the harm suffered by filing a claim against the owner of the dog.  Generally, dog owners owe a duty to other people to use reasonable and ordinary care in handling their pet.  If a dog owner breaches this duty by failing to properly care for or supervise their dog, and the dog causes injury to another person or another person’s property, the dog owner may be subject to civil liability.

In some cases, you may be able to sue a person charged with supervising the dog, such as a dog-sitter or hired dog-walker.  Although these cases are less common, this class of people may also be subject to liability if they were negligent in handling or supervising another person’s animal.    

Deciding whether you should pursue legal action requires careful consideration of many important factors such as when the attack occurred, the severity of your injuries, and your relationship to the dog owner.  Consulting with a personal injury attorney may provide an opportunity for you to receive helpful legal advice regarding your rights and legal options.

FILING A DOG BITE CLAIM FOR A DOG BITE ON PRIVATE PROPERTY

In order to pursue compensation for your injuries following a dog bite accident, you may need to file a dog bite lawsuit against the at-fault party.  Listed below are some of the important steps that comprise the dog bite claim filing process.

1. File a report

The first step you should take is to file a formal report or complaint as soon as possible.  You may do so by calling your local authorities or animal control agency after a dog bite attack.  Filing a report may be in your best interests for several reasons.   A formal report will serve as an official record of the attack.  The report itself may also serve as evidence with respect to your injuries and damages.  Finally, the report will put the dog owner on notice that his or her animal may pose a risk of danger to other persons.

2. Contact an attorney

Your next step should be to contact a personal injury lawyer.  Filing a lawsuit is often an intensive process that requires extreme diligence and knowledge of important timelines and procedures.  A lawyer may work on your behalf by timely filing a dog bite claim and handling any other necessary matters.  A lawyer may also discuss the facts of the accident with you in order to formulate a legal strategy which best protects your legal rights. 

3. Investigation

The investigation phase of a dog bite lawsuit may involve your attorney working hard to gather important facts and evidence.  For instance, your attorney may conduct witness interviews and search for previous complaints which may have been filed against the dog or dog owner.  Such evidence may be used to build your case and establish that the dog owner should be held liable for your injuries.  The investigation process may also involve accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damages.  A personal injury lawyer will work on your behalf to accomplish each of these important steps. 

4. Settlement and lawsuit

Prior to litigation, you may have the option of accepting a settlement from the dog owner or from the dog owner’s insurance company.  If it is not in your best interests to accept the settlement offer, your case may proceed to trial.  If your case reaches the trial stage, the personal injury lawyer will advocate on your behalf and try to convince a judge and jury why the dog owner should be responsible for your damages. 

DOG BITE COMPENSATION

If a personal injury lawsuit is brought against the dog owner, the dog owner or his insurance company may face the possibility of having to compensate the victim for harm suffered as a result of the dog attach.  This harm is referred to as “damages.”  The types of damages that may be available to a dog bite victim fall into two separate categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages refer to losses that can be calculated or quantified.  The primary economic damages at issue in a dog bite lawsuit may include:

  • Medical and pharmacy bills
  • Future medical costs
  • Lost income and wages
  • Future lost income
  • Loss of earning capacity

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are intangible losses which cannot be easily quantified.  Non-economic damages are subjectively evaluated by the jury in a dog bite lawsuit.  Types of non-economic damages in a dog bite lawsuit may include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of consortium

Learn More: How to Calculate the Value of Case

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

A “statute of limitations” is a legal time-limit on which a person must file a lawsuit.  If a person fails to bring a claim within the applicable statute of limitations, that person may be effectively barred from litigating the claim in court. 

Statutes of limitations for personal injury claims such as those filed after a dog bite vary from state to state.  Many states have a two-year statute of limitations.  Other states may have a three-year statute of limitations.  Certain circumstances may also pause or “toll” the applicable statute of limitations.

Because filing a timely lawsuit is critical to the outcome of your case, it is important to consider discussing your case with a personal injury attorney.

Get Help From Zinda Law Group

Was the dog leashed? Did the dog handler have voice command or control over the dog to stop the attack? Did the attack occur on private property or in a public place such as a park? Did the dog handler try to prevent the attack in the first place?

These are all important questions to ask when you are considering filing your claim. The amount of compensation you can receive will depend on the circumstances surrounding the incident and the level of responsibility that the owner or keeper holds.

Call Zinda Law Group today at (888) 671-5127 for a free case evaluation with an experienced dog bite attorney. You will not owe us anything unless we are able to win your case.