Incidents of dog bites are covered under specific laws in the United States, wherein in most cases, the dogs’ owners have a legal responsibility to prevent their pets from injuring people or damaging property. If your dog hurts someone, you, as the owner, are liable to reimburse the victim for medical expenses, loss of income due to missed working days, and pain and suffering.
Dog owners need to have a clear understanding of dog-bite laws applicable in their states. Every state has laws for pet owner liability arising from dog bites that highlight the conditions under which the law holds you responsible for injuries and other damages caused by your dog, and how you may be able to prove your innocence. Three types of legal principles determine a dog owner’s liability, including strict liability laws, one-bite laws, and negligence.
Most of the time, a dog’s owner is legally responsible for the damage or the injury the dog causes. In some situations, others (barring the dog owner) may also be liable, if he/she had control over the dog.
Here are the key points to follow if your dog has bitten someone:
1. Seek Medical Attention
Regardless of your presence at the time of the dog bite, make sure that the victim receives immediate medical attention and take them to the hospital immediately. Ensure that the bite is checked and tended to as soon as possible.
It is advisable to handle the situation with utmost politeness. As a responsible dog owner, you should offer to pay for the victim’s medical bills. You need not analyze who was at fault at that point of time. Also, financially helping the injured can reduce the burden of dealing with the damage, and may help you avoid taking the matter to court.
2. Arrange All Necessary Documentation
Your dog’s medical records are of utmost importance in case of a dog-bite. So, make a copy of your dog’s medical records, including rabies shots, and submit them to the hospital and the victim. This can relieve the victim and his/her family of some of the stress, knowing that he/she is not at risk of rabies.
In some states, dog-bite laws clearly state that if a dog is owned or cared for by someone less than 18 years old, then the minor’s parents are probably legally liable in place of the minor. So, check for the details and documentation required by your state court. Along with the dog’s medical records, arrange for adoption certificate and pedigree of your dog.
3. Be Prepared to Handle Legal Consequences
Take accountability by reaching out to the victim a few days or weeks after the incident and check in to see how they are doing. Your gestures should show that you genuinely care about his/her recovery. At the same time, maintain a diplomatic stance when communicating with the victim because your uncooperative behavior can be used against you in court.
Express your sympathy and show compassion for the victim. Volunteer to assist them with household work. These gestures may help you establish a cordial relation with the victim.
Irrespective of the chances of you facing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit, know the probable routes your case may take. Here are the three courts that hear dog-bite lawsuits:
- Civil Court: Lawsuits wherein dog owners are responsible for injuries to others from bites are heard in the civil courts of most American states.
- Criminal Court: This court is approached in rare cases, wherein the attack was extremely serious in nature. If your dog already has a rap sheet, you can be accused of multiple crimes.
- Dog Court: This court hears cases when the Animal Control Office has decided to take action against you and your dog.
Even if the victim isn’t planning to file a lawsuit against you, your dog may still be quarantined at your own home. So, ask if this is an option in your situation.
4. Maintain a Truthful Approach
Lying is never a good solution, especially when you are likely to face legal charges. In several situations, dog owners provide incorrect information or vouch for untruthful statements about the dog’s history of biting. This can harm your case. In some cases, lying can lead to a criminal charge. Avoid discussing the following information with anyone except your lawyer:
- Who the dog owner is
- Minute details of the incident
- Location of the incident
- Assumptions and hearsay involving the incident
5. Contact Your Insurance Company
Just like for any other lawsuit, you should seek legal advice for dog-bite incidents. Consult your insurance company to understand if they cover dog liability. If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, there is a fair chance that you may be covered for the compensation. However, you should check the state laws before finalizing any deal with the victim’s legal representation. Some insurance companies offer medical coverage for the victim’s medical bills. Check with your insurance company if they have any such deals.
In the United States, victims of dog bites are entitled to receive compensation for the full range of damages. This compensation can run into thousands of dollars, and the owners may not be entirely at fault. Laws determining liability for a dog bite vary from case to case, but with a responsible attitude, one can reduce the chances of the victim filing a lawsuit against the dog owner. Strong legal representation allows one to anticipate the intensity of the situation, and may be able to convince the victim to drop the charges.
About Dog-Bite Compensation:
Economic damages related to dog-bites include future expenses such as plastic surgery to reduce the appearance of scars. All aspects of the scarring will be considered when evaluating the value of a dog-bite scar, including, the prominence of the scar, location of the scar on the body, underlying damage to nerves or tendons, and the pain caused due to the scar. Lost time from work due to an attack will also be considered when calculating economic damages.
About the Author: Shirley is an animal lover, writer, and blogger. She loves to write about pet health, care tips and guiding dog owners for the well-being of their pets & people around them, in an effort to avoid dog-related injuries. She enjoys reading, listening to music and exploring new places. Resource: www.