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Even the friendliest dogs have the potential to bite someone. When an attack occurs, the victim may be left with severe injuries. These injuries may result in extensive medical bills and missed time from work. A consultation with an experienced lawyer may help determine whether anything can be done to recover compensation for such costs.
COMMON CAUSES OF DOG BITE ATTACKS
A significant number of dog bite accidents occur because the animal was provoked. Examples of provocation can include barking at a dog, hitting a dog, chasing a dog, and preventing a dog from enjoying its food or toys. Playing too aggressively with a dog can also be considered an act of provocation.
Dogs are territorial creatures by nature. As a result, dogs instinctively have an urge to protect their food, property, litter, and owners. Encroaching on any of these items may result in an attack. For example, a dog bite accident may occur when a stranger enters the dog’s home or approaches the dog’s owner.
Rabid or Wild Dog
Wild, untrained, or rabid dogs may spontaneously attack another animal or person even if unprovoked. Dogs with a history of abuse or neglect are also at risk of attacking. Be careful around loose or stray dogs and avoid dogs that exhibit signs of anger or aggression.
WHAT TO DO AFTER BEING BITTEN BY A DOG
1. Assess the Situation and Seek Medical Attention If Necessary
If you have been bitten by a dog, the first thing you should do is assess the severity of your injury. Not every dog bite requires a trip to the emergency room. For instance, playful nibbles between a dog and its owner are unlikely to lead to injury.
In contrast, many dog bites do require medical attention. If you think you have been injured in a dog bite accident, the first and most important step you can take is to seek prompt medical attention. Large bites are obviously a danger to a person’s health. But even small bites have the potential to puncture the skin and become infected. There is also a chance that the attacking dog is carrying a harmful virus such as rabies. Therefore, if you believe you have suffered an injury, it is imperative that you have a trained medical professional examine the bite as soon as possible.
2. File a Report
If you can, try to file an accident report with local law enforcement or with a local animal control agency. Filing a report can be helpful because it creates an official record of the accident which may later be used to strengthen the value of your claim. Filing a report may also alert the dog’s owner of the dog’s violent tendencies, thereby putting the owner on notice that the animal is capable of causing injury. When filling out the report, be as detailed as possible, making sure to include important details such as when the accident occurred, how it occurred, and a description of your injuries.
3. Document the Accident
Another important step to take following a dog bite attack is to document the accident. Documenting the accident means creating a thorough record of all important material relating to the accident. To help keep everything organized, consider storing all relevant documents at your home office or on your smartphone. Materials to keep in your records include photographs of the accident, photographs of your injuries, a copy of the accident report, witness statements, and medical bills.
4. Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Finally, you should contact a dog bite attorney. An attorney may be able to provide helpful advice regarding your rights and remedies. If necessary, your attorney may file a lawsuit on your behalf and can help you navigate your claim from start to finish.
NEW MEXICO DOG BITE LAWS
Some states have laws that set forth rules and guidelines for dog bite attacks. However, New Mexico does not have a dog bite statute. Instead, New Mexico courts have assumed the responsibility of establishing dog bite laws. Under court precedent, there are essentially two ways in which a dog owner can be held liable for a dog bite attack.
The first way a dog owner may be subject to liability for a dog bite attack is known as the “one bite rule.” Under this rule, a dog owner may be subject to liability for dog bite injuries if the dog owner knew, or should have known, that his dog was vicious or had a tendency or natural inclination to be vicious. Therefore, for a victim of a dog bite to prevail in a claim against a dog bite owner based on the one bite rule, the victim must be able to show that the dog owner knew about the dog’s tendency for violence. One way a victim can accomplish this is by proving that the dog had previously bitten someone or that that dog was naturally and consistently aggressive around others.
The second way a dog owner may be subject to liability for a dog attack is based on negligence. Under this theory of liability, the focus is on whether the dog owner exercised reasonable care to prevent a dog bite attack rather than on what the dog owner knew about his dog’s tendency for violence. To prevail in a dog bite claim based on negligence, the victim must establish that the dog owner knew or should have known about the dog's aggressiveness but failed to use reasonable care to control or restrain the dog in a way that would prevent injury. For instance, negligence may be proven in a situation where a dog owner allowed his dog to roam free in a park without a leash.
New Mexico dog bite case law is constantly developing. If you have been injured in a dog bite accident, consider consulting with an experienced New Mexico dog bite attorney before pursuing legal action or agreeing to a settlement. A brief consultation may allow you to better understand what rights and remedies are available to you.
DOG BITE COMPENSATION
The victim of a dog bite attack may be able to seek compensation in the form of money damages from the at-fault party for costs incurred as a result of the attack. The types of damages that may be available to a dog bite victim fall into two general categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to quantifiable costs incurred by the victim as a result of the dog bite accident. Types of economic damages 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 are intangible losses that cannot be easily quantified. Instead, a victim’s non-economic damages are typically evaluated by the jury in a lawsuit. Types of non-economic damages in a dog bite lawsuit may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
LEGAL TIME LIMITS FOR A DOG BITE INJURY CLAIM
A dog bite victim has a time limit with which he or she must pursue a claim against a dog’s owner following a dog bite attack. This time limit, otherwise referred to as a “statute of limitations,” is three years under Thus, for instance, if you were injured in a dog bit attacked that occurred on January 1, 2021, you would need to file a claim by January 1, 2024. Failure to file a claim within the statute of limitations effectively bars a victim from litigating the claim in court.
Under certain, limited circumstances, the statute of limitations may be extended, or “tolled,” beyond the three-year period. For example, if a minor is injured in a dog bite attack, the minor may have until the time he or she reaches the age of majority to file a claim.
The statute of limitations is a critical aspect of any personal injury claim. Failure to enforce your legal rights on time may result in forfeiture of those rights. Thus, you should consider discussing your case with a dog bite attorney as soon as possible following an accident. If necessary, an attorney may act on your behalf and ensure that a claim is timely and properly filed.
LET ZINDA LAW GROUP’S DOG BITE ATTORNEYS FIGHT FOR YOU
At Zinda Law Group, our experienced attorneys have years of experience handling dog bite claims from start to finish. In addition to negotiating settlements on behalf of our clients, our dog bite attorneys have also zealously advocated for dog bite victims in front of judges and juries. We strive to give every aspect of your case the attention to detail it deserves. Let us worry about protecting your legal rights while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Zinda Law Group also believes that an injury victim should never have to worry about being able to afford excellent legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case. That's our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.