A dog bite injury can leave you facing a whirlwind of pain and negative emotions. These unpredictable incidents may lead to severe physical harm and psychological distress.
Understanding what to do following a dog bite doesn’t just help you recover but supports any potential legal action you might need to pursue. An experienced dog bite attorney can guide you through this process.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you could be entitled to compensation. Taking the right steps maximizes your chances of recovering damages and reduces the stress associated with legal action.
Strict Liability Law
Strict liability law concerning dog bites holds dog owners responsible for injuries their dogs cause, regardless of whether the owner was negligent or aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies.
Under strict liability, the owner is liable for the resulting injuries and damages if a dog bites or attacks someone.
This means that the victim does not need to prove that the owner was negligent or at fault. They only need to demonstrate that the dog bite occurred and caused harm.
Strict liability laws vary by jurisdiction but aim to protect victims and ensure that dog owners are responsible for their pets.
Unfortunately, dog owners do not always understand their legal obligations or take appropriate measures to prevent their dogs from causing harm to others. Such owners become defendants in dog bite claims.
The legal principle of the one-bite rule applies in some jurisdictions, such as New York, regarding dog bites. Under this rule, a dog owner is generally not liable for their dog’s first bite or attack if they have no prior knowledge or reason to believe that the dog is dangerous or likely to cause harm.
In other words, the owner is given one free pass or warning before they become accountable for subsequent bites.
The one-bite rule has its roots in the idea that dog owners may be unaware of their dog’s aggressive tendencies until an incident occurs. It places the burden on the victim to prove that the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s dangerous propensities.
Many jurisdictions, however, have moved away from this approach. Some states have adopted strict liability laws or enacted specific dog bite statutes that hold owners responsible for injuries their dogs cause, regardless of prior knowledge or warnings.
To navigate these statutes and regulations, you need to work with an attorney familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction. They can explain the specific legal standards and requirements regarding dog bite liability.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for dog bite cases typically ranges from one to three years. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the specified time frame, you can lose your right to seek compensation.
There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations. They include situations where the victim is a minor and cases where the dog owner concealed their identity. Relying on these exceptions can be complicated, so it is best to take immediate action and speak with an attorney as soon as possible after a dog bite incident.
Liability in a Dog Bite Case
While laws can vary from state to state, two key factors generally determine responsibility: ownership and negligence.
The primary responsibility lies with the dog’s owner. You can hold dog owners liable for the actions of their pets, especially if they knew of their dog’s aggressive tendencies or had prior knowledge of its dangerous behavior.
In some situations, a third party may also be partially responsible. If the dog was under the care of a dog walker, trainer, or boarding facility at the time of the incident, they may share liability.
Establishing liability in a dog bite case requires gathering sufficient evidence, such as witness statements, medical records, and documentation of the dog owner’s culpability. An experienced attorney can guide you through the complexities of determining responsibility and build a strong case.
Key Steps To Take After a Dog Bite
More than 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the United States. Around 20 percent of them result in injuries that require medical attention.
After tending to your immediate dog bite injuries, you should take several important steps to ensure your well-being and build a strong case. The faster you take action, the easier it is for your attorney to fight for fair compensation.
Speak to an Experienced Dog Bite Attorney
Contacting an experienced dog bite attorney should be a priority. They can guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, and seek appropriate compensation.
An attorney can review your case, assess liability, and advise you on the best course of action. Provide them with all the details of the incident, any evidence you have, and your medical records.
Besides suffering from serious injuries, many dog bite victims are in a delicate emotional state. Some make the mistake of delaying legal action until they feel better. This could hurt your case significantly and even prevent you from receiving compensation.
Contact an attorney as soon as possible so they can start building a case on your behalf.
High-quality evidence is necessary to support your claim. Take photographs of your injuries, where the incident occurred, and the dog involved (if possible). Obtain the name and contact information of the dog owner and any witnesses present.
If any security cameras were nearby, note their locations and request footage as soon as possible. This evidence can significantly strengthen your case.
When you work with an attorney, they handle the evidence collection process. They can come back to the scene of the accident, speak to witnesses, collect camera footage, and take photos. They also advise you about other types of evidence.
Keep Detailed Records
Maintain a comprehensive record of everything related to the accident, including medical records, bills, receipts, and any other expenses you incurred due to the bite.
Consider keeping a private journal that documents the physical and emotional effects of the dog bite, including pain, suffering, and any limitations on your daily activities. These records clearly account for your damages and help determine the appropriate compensation.
Report the Incident
Contact the local animal control or health department to report the dog bite incident. Providing a detailed report will help ensure that the dog is properly evaluated and monitored for future incidents. Reporting the incident also creates an official record that can be valuable for your case.
Each state has a website where you can report a dog bite. For example, New York City offers an online animal bite form . If you are in Suffolk County, report the bite to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services at (631) 853-0333. If you are in Nassau County, Nassau County Department of Health: (516) 227-9663. Talk to your attorney about the right approach to incident reporting.
Be Mindful of Social Media
Refrain from discussing the incident or posting any information about your case on social media. Insurance companies and defense attorneys may use your posts against you to undermine your claim. Maintain privacy and avoid jeopardizing your case by sharing sensitive information online.
Follow Medical Instructions
Follow your doctors‘ instructions diligently and complete all prescribed treatments and therapies. This doesn’t just support your recovery but also demonstrates your commitment to your health and well-being. The defense may use any failure to follow medical advice against you to argue that your injuries are less severe than you claim.
When you work with an attorney, they can take you through all these steps and provide valuable advice. A comprehensive legal approach to a dog bite case allows you to recover fair compensation.
How an Attorney Can Navigate a Dog Bite Case
Decoding the legal implications of a dog bite injury can be complicated. An experienced attorney can break down these complexities for you and clarify how the law applies to your circumstance. They evaluate and discuss your potential legal recourse and guide you through the legal processes that lie ahead.
Thorough Investigation of the Case
Your attorney serves as a critical ally in the early stages of your dog bite case. They can gather and organize the necessary evidence, document the complete incident, track down and interview witnesses, and examine the history and behavior of the dog involved. Their experience and attention to detail in compiling this evidence can strengthen your case considerably by establishing a clear picture of what happened and who is liable.
Negotiating With Insurance Companies
One of the most complex aspects of a dog bite case is dealing with the dog owner’s insurance company. An attorney can protect your interests and take on the task of negotiating with the adjusters. They ensure that the insurance company fully compensates you for your injuries and losses.
Representing You in Court Proceedings
If your case goes to court, your attorney acts as your advocate, representing you and presenting your case to the judge or jury. They strive to ensure that your story is heard and that you receive the justice you deserve. Legal representation can give you the confidence and peace of mind you need during this challenging time.
The litigation process for a dog bite case resembles that of other personal injury cases. It involves phases such as discovery, where both sides exchange information, and depositions, where the attorneys question witnesses under oath.
A judge or jury will determine liability and potential damages if the case goes to trial. Knowing what to expect at each stage can alleviate some of the stress associated with the legal process.
An attorney’s role in a dog bite case goes beyond offering legal advice. They also handle end-to-end aspects of your case and provide you with a sense of security and support. Their in-depth knowledge and experience help you navigate this challenging time with the right information and the best possible representation.
Taking the Right Course of Action After a Dog Bite
While every dog bite case is unique, understanding the general landscape of dog bite law, the factors that influence a case, and the potential financial and psychological effects can provide a foundation for navigating a potential claim. As always, it is best to call an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your situation and legal options.
Once you have an experienced dog bite attorney in your corner, you can focus on healing. The legal professional takes care of all the necessary steps and points you toward making smart decisions.