Roswell Dog Bite Lawyers
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Since most dogs (roughly 98.5% each year) do not attack people, it is startling to learn that there are 100 dog attacks in the United States each hour. Perhaps it is even more unsettling that more than 50% of those attacked are children. Even if your attitude towards dogs has not changed since you or your loved one were attacked, you still deserve to receive compensation from the dog owner for your injuries. Our Roswell dog bite lawyers can help you with that. Each dog bite case will be different, with circumstances varying depending on whether the victim knew the owner, whether the parties were in public, and so on.
Dog bite laws in New Mexico
Some states have statutes that categorize dog bite cases based on location (public versus private), the seriousness of the injury, or the owner’s knowledge of a dog’s propensity to bite. However, New Mexico does not have a statute to address dog bite injuries. Instead, this area is governed by common law.
What is Common Law?
Common law is law that is created by judicial court decisions instead of by the legislators. It is not codified like statutes, but it is just as binding as statutes. Much of personal injury law has developed through common law, and each state has its own common law rules for specific parts of personal injury law.
What Common Law Governs Dog Bites in Roswell, New Mexico?
In New Mexico, there are two basic theories of common law under which dog bite victims may sue. The first is negligence, and the second is strict liability. Negligence is an appropriate claim against a dog owner when the dog owner does not have knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities, or tendency to bite or attack. Strict liability is appropriate when the dog owner knows or should have known about the dog’s vicious propensities.
Many personal injuries happen because of the negligence of one party; if a dog owner did not know about his or her dog’s vicious propensities, then negligence is likely the appropriate route for the victim to take. Whenever one party owes another party a duty of care, a negligence claim can arise from a breach of that duty. The elements of a negligence claim for a dog bite include the following:
- The dog owner owed the victim a duty of care.
- The dog owner breached the standard of the duty of care.
- The victim’s injury is a type for which he or she can claim compensation.
- The dog owner’s breach of duty caused the victim’s injury.
The Duty of Care
The duty of care that one party owes another varies based on the circumstances; for example, a doctor owes a patient a duty of care comparable to the care that the average doctor in the same field and same geographical area would provide to a patient. A shopkeeper owes a customer a duty of care to clean up spills or warn customers of spills within an appropriate amount of time to prevent customers from the foreseeable injury of a slip and fall. A dog owner at a park owes a duty of care to other park patrons to keep his or her dog leashed according to the rules and customs of the park.
Breach of the Duty of Care
The person who owes the other person a duty of care breaches that duty of care when he or she fails to comply with the standard. Breaching doctors might use outdated techniques that make injuries to patients more likely; breaching shopkeepers might mop an aisle of the store and not place a “wet floor” sign. Breaching dog owners might ignore park rules and allow their dogs to freely interact with other people and animals at the park.
The Victim’s Injury
Most physical injuries, such as having a surgical tool left in your body after surgery, breaking your hip from slipping on a wet floor, or having your skin ripped open by a dog bite, are the types for which you can receive compensation. The injury the victim receives must be caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.
In typical strict liability cases that do not have to do with dog bites, the defendant’s intent does not matter for the outcome of the case. While the defendant’s intent still does not matter for dog bite cases, the defendant’s knowledge does. That is, even if the defendant took precautions to prevent his or her dog from attacking, the dog owner could be held strictly liable for the injury if he or she knew or should have known about the dog’s propensity to bite.
The “scienter” principle for dog bite law, sometimes called the “one bite rule,” is what sets strict liability apart from negligence in dog bite cases. If a dog bite victim sues under strict liability, he or she has the burden of proof to show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a vicious propensity. A spouse’s knowledge about a dog’s vicious propensity is often sufficient to show that the other spouse knew of the vicious propensity.
If the dog owner did not know or have any reason to know that the dog would attack—for example, there was no prior history of attacks—then the victim would have a negligence claim. You will likely know more about what the dog owner knows if the dog owner is your friend or a member of your extended family.
Defenses that the dog owner could raise
The main defenses that a dog owner can raise in most states is trespass and provocation. Trespass occurs when someone who was not invited enters onto the owner’s private property. Often there is immunity for municipal employees who are there in performance of a duty imposed by the law.
The dog owner could also raise the defense that you provoked the dog, but sometimes there is an extra requirement for the provocation defense. In some states, the dog owner must show both that the victim provoked the dog and that the victim knew about the dog’s vicious propensities.
Should I find Roswell dog bite lawyers near me?
A Roswell injury lawyer will know how to interpret the common law for dog bite injuries in New Mexico. A dog bite victim needs someone at his or her side to help not only with the determination of the type of claim you should file, but also with the details of where to file and when. Researching on your own is especially difficult for common law claims, since the law is not clearly stated in a statute; a person arguing a dog bite claim in New Mexico must be able to interpret cases in a way that is both in keeping with the law and favorable to his or her case.
An attorney already knows about the important cases for dog bite litigation and can take the burden of research from you. When you have an experienced advocate at your side, you know that you are not sinking more energy and money into your claim than the amount you could receive in compensation.
If you can provide the lawyer with the information about the owner of the dog who bit you, the lawyer can help you with the investigative work from there by contacting the dog owner and the dog owner’s lawyer. Next, your attorney can help you negotiate a settlement with the defendant or his insurance. Rather than allow the other side to poke holes in your case, you can have your advocate fight in your case.
when should i file my complaint?
In order to make sure your dog bite claim is good, you will have to comply with the specific court rules. Potentially one of the most devastating rules to an otherwise valid complaint is the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations defines how long the plaintiff has to file a complaint after the event that caused the injury takes place. New Mexico’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is three years. That means that from the day you were bitten, you have three years to organize enough information to file your claim.
Note that you do not need to have all of your evidence ahead of time before you file your claim. You will have time to do that in the investigative and information-gathering stage of litigation called discovery. Discovery usually takes the longest of any of the stages of litigation in a claim.
what kind of compensation can I receive?
The most accurate estimate of the amount of compensation you could receive will come from a consultation with a dog bite lawyer. A dog bite attorney near you who has argued and settled many cases like yours should be able to give you an idea of the amount of compensation you should expect.
The amount of compensation will depend on the kind of injury you received: the more medical treatment you required, the more compensation you will likely be entitled to. Of course, not all injuries from dog bites are only physical. You could also suffer psychological injuries that require treatment.
Physical injuries and mental injuries are covered economic and non-economic damages, eligible for possible compensation. Economic damages include your cost of treatment and your missed wages from time off of work. Noneconomic damages are more abstract in nature, covering your mental suffering from the attack itself, mental suffering from remembering the attack, and loss of future earning capacity because of a physical injury.
what if I was bitten by a bully breed?
While there are common misconceptions about which dog breeds are more aggressive than others, the truth is that some dogs simply cause more damage than others when they bite. One study shows that many people do not know which breed bit them, but breeds that are often mentioned as culprits by their victims are pit bull, mixed breed, German shepherd, terrier, and rottweiler.
Dogs also behave in accordance with the way they have been trained or treated. If a dog has been trained to attack trespassers, that might explain the reason for its attack. Alternatively, a dog that has been abused by humans might bite out of fear.
Preventing dog bites in the future
You may want to be prepared for a dog bite in the future, even if you do not anticipate encountering the dog that bit you again. There are a number of ways to avoid being bitten by a dog:
- Do not panic.
- Do not run from an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not make loud noises at a dog.
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, do not move, scream, or make direct eye contact.
- Let a dog smell you before you try to pet it; if you do pet it, scratch it under the chin instead of on top of its head.
- If you are knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and cover your ears and neck.
- Do not disturb an eating dog.
- Do not disturb a sleeping dog.
- Do not disturb a dog while it is tending to its puppies.
- Try not to play aggressively with your dog.
- Report any strays or dogs that display strange behavior to the local animal control.
If I sue, will the dog owner put the dog down?
Section 77-1-9 of New Mexico’s code provides that a peace officer may kill a dog that is in the act of attacking a human or is in the act of pursuing or wounding livestock or poultry.
You may have conflicting feelings about what happens to the dog that attacks you; perhaps you do not want to face having to be around the dog in the future if the dog belongs to a neighbor or family member. Perhaps you are instead worried that the dog owner will feel compelled to put the dog down when that is not what you want. Speak with your attorney about your wishes regarding this issue.
Talk to a Zinda law group lawyer in Roswell, New Mexico
As we discussed, dog bites can be serious injuries that involve permanent disfigurement, psychological harm, or even death. You deserve to restore your life as close as possible to the condition that it was in before the dog attack. That restoration might require compensation for the care you need for your injury.
Our Zinda Law Group lawyers in Roswell want to hear your story about how the bite happened and help you decide how you would like to proceed with your potential claim. You can call (800) 863-5312 to talk to a personal injury lawyer and schedule your free consultation.
Compassionate attorneys care about your goals for your recovery and compensation and will take these into account when advising you. Our personal injury attorneys are happy to answer any questions you have about the legal process or your expectations while we work to get you compensated for your injuries. Additionally, our No Win, No Fee Guarantee means that you do not owe us a cent unless we win your case for you.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.