Who is liable for a dog bite?
In order to determine who is responsible for a dog bite, it is necessary to establish who owned the dog. In California, a dog owner is strictly liable for any dog bite regardless of whether he or she failed to protect others from the attack, or had no reason to know the dog was dangerous, provided that the victim was not trespassing or provoking the dog
In addition to the dog owner, other individuals may be held liable for a dog bite including anyone who is responsible for the care or custody of the dog such as a kennel, pound or animal shelter. A property owner can also be held responsible if he or she allowed the dog onto the property. Similarly, a landlord can be held liable for an animal bite caused by a tenant’s dangerous pet.
Who is responsible?
In Maine, owners are legally responsible (“liable”) for an animal bite. Even if the owner had no reason to believe that his or her animal was dangerous, if the animal bit someone, the owner would still be liable. A homeowner’s insurance policy, renter’s policy, or personal assets can all be used to pay for your pain and suffering if the owner or keeper of the animal is found responsible for your injuries.
Examples of valid animal injury cases where someone other than the owner or keeper of the dog could be held liable:
- The dog was under the care of another individual, like a dog walker, kennel owner or groomer.
- The dog’s owner or keeper is under the age of 18.
- The dog was on someone’s property, other than the owner or keeper, and they did not take some type of action to have the dog removed, they could be held liable for injuries that someone receives.
- For example, a 25-year old man kept his Rottweiler at his grandparent’s home during the day in an unfenced yard and left the dog unsupervised. The dog was known for harassing anyone walking by the home and sometimes lunging at people and other dogs. While it was owned by the adult grandson, the grandparents could be held legally liable for an attack simply because the dog was living on their property during the day.
Where do Dogs Stand?
As applied to dogs, the injured party must show the dog’s owner’s awareness the pet engaged in prior similar acts that showed its vicious nature. This does not necessarily mean the dog had actually bitten or injured someone else before. The injured party proves the dog’s “vicious” through evidence it growled, snapped or bare its teeth. They can also show the manner they restrained the dog or kept it as a guard dog. An injured party can show the dog acted in a way that placed others at risk of harm.
In past cases involving children, the courts have dismissed lawsuits where the injured party cannot show the dog had ever previously bitten anyone or exhibited aggressive behavior. Barking or growling without anything else is insufficient proof. The court will look at the facts and see whether the dog snapped or bared its teeth at the child. The court looks at how an owner restrained the dog at home. It also considers whether an owner trained the dog to guard the home.
What types of damages can I collect?
We can identify and document every possible source of damages for your claim, and request compensation based on the maximum value of your case. While damages vary based on the circumstances you endured, some of the most common damages we can collect for our clients include:
Even the most minor dog bites require medical attention. More serious attack injuries require extensive cleaning and careful attention to prevent further complications. The risk of infection is high, and scarring is common. Bites on the face, neck, arms, and hands often require closure by a plastic surgeon and follow-up care. The most serious bites or infections may require amputation or lead to other permanent disabilities.
We make sure to request compensation for medical bills, ongoing and future medical care costs, therapy expenses, and any other expenses related to the treatment of your wounds.
Major dog attacks could keep you away from work for weeks, longer if you experience complications. We can collect compensation based on the wages you missed, and wages you will likely miss out on in the future if you cannot return to work due to your injuries. We may be able to also claim lost benefits if you suffer from a disability that will prevent you from ever returning to your previous position.
“Pain and Suffering” and Inconvenience
Dog bites cause immense pain and suffering, and may lead to both physical and psychological scarring. We fight for full compensation for these damages based on the severity of your injuries and your actual monetary losses due to the accident. We can also recover damages for your inconvenience (e.g., having to attend doctor’s appointments, missing your child’s birthday party).
Occasionally, we need to file a personal injury lawsuit to get the compensation our clients deserve in their dog bite case. If your case heads to court, we might be able to persuade the judge or jury to award punitive damages. It is important to note that an award of punitive damages is rare and only occurs when the dog’s owner acted particularly recklessly or maliciously.
Who Could Be Held Responsible if a Dog Bites?
In order to pursue maximum compensation for your dog bite injuries, our dedicated legal team will need to build a strong case to prove who is at fault. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, that at-fault party may be:
- The owner of the dog
- A dog sitter or someone responsible for watching the dog
- Dog walkers who may have been negligent in their duties
- Owners of kennels
- Landlords at apartment buildings