Dogs are some of our closest companions, but unfortunately, they can also injure us if proper precautions are not taken. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports there are about 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year. Dog bites and injuries from dogs account for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance payments each year, up to $600 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute. While dogs can be amazing pets, your dog or someone else’s may pose a danger at some point.
In Alabama, dog bite laws have many nuances.The owner of a dog that is known to be vicious or dangerous is at fault if another party is injured by that dog. In this case, if the dog is rabid during an attack, the owner is liable for twice the amount of damages. Sometimes no prior vicious behavior needs to have happened — simply, the type of breed of the dog may be enough to constitute prior knowledge. Dog bite cases can be further complicated when landlords are involved and may be deemed at fault.
If there is no knowledge of dangerous behavior and the dog bite victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or provoked the dog, the dog owner may build a case against the victim around factors like these. When injuries are caused because of a dog bite, often hiring a lawyer is beneficial for the victim and/or the dog owner, depending on the circumstances.
How Dog Bites Commonly Occur
The CDC reports that most dog bites happen with dogs we are familiar with, with half happening at home. Children are at high risk, which is why it is essential to be vigilant of your dog when it is near any kids. Dog bites can suddenly occur in situations where a dog seems calm — they can come out of nowhere once a dog is agitated. Be wary of situations including:
- Interactions with breeds that may be considered aggressive, such as pit bulls
- “Playing rough” with a dog, such as getting a dog to chase a person or lightly pushing it during play time
- Interacting with a dog while it is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies
- Being exposed to any dog that is unfamiliar
If you encounter a strange dog, always ask the owner for permission to interact with the dog before approaching it. Let the dog sniff you before touching it. If the dog seems anxious or uneasy, do not proceed.
Be cautious around stray dogs. Dogs that are off-leash and without an owner may be aggressive or have diseases such as rabies. Nearly 20 percent of dog bites become infected and may result in sickness or death of the victim.
What to Do If You Are a Dog Bite Victim
If you are bitten by a dog, treat the wound and get medical assistance if necessary. Ask the owner for information on current vaccines, including rabies, and be sure to obtain the rabies vaccine license number and full contact information of the dog owner, since you will need this information if you file an insurance claim and decide to file a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the severity of the wound, you may also call emergency services and have a police report filed.
If your own dog was the one who bit you or someone in your family and you sustain significant injuries, you may file an insurance claim if you have homeowners insurance that covers dog bites. If your dog attacks your children or you feel unsafe around your dog, you will want to consider enrolling the dog in behavioral therapy or removing it from your home altogether. Be especially careful when introducing the dog to others, and be aware of the risks your dog poses.
What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone Else
It can be heartbreaking when you witness your beloved pet causing physical injury and emotional stress to someone else. You may not have realized your pet had an aggressive side to it, and you may have thought you did everything in your power to keep those around your pet safe. In the case of your dog biting someone, it is important to focus on staying calm and not letting emotions dictate your actions. Do not admit fault or compromise your innocence, but help the victim obtain the medical assistance they need.
Do not leave the scene of the dog bite until you have exchanged contact information with the victim and provided police with your account of the situation if they are called to the scene. Comply with providing rabies vaccination information — and make sure all your animals are fully vaccinated, in the first place. If you believe your dog may be in danger or you might face a lawsuit, contact a lawyer immediately for a consultation.
If you are still in possession of your dog after they have bitten someone, it is important to prevent future dog bites and keep everyone else, including yourself, safe. Do not allow your dog to be in any public situation where they may attack someone else. Consult with a dog trainer to modify your dog’s behavior. If your goal is to keep your dog after they’ve attacked someone, you should work toward ensuring an attack never happens again by properly training your dog.
Get Help for Dog Bite Personal Injuries
Dog bites are some of the most traumatic personal injuries around. They’re painful for both the victim and the dog owner. Often the dog is cherished and loved. Protecting it in a case such as this may be a top priority, and protecting others from any harm it may cause in the future is paramount.
If you are a victim of a dog bite, you are entitled to compensation for physical injuries and emotional stress. You may also want to help prevent others from becoming a victim, too. A Birmingham personal injury lawyer than handles premises liability for dog bite cases can help you get the compensation you deserve and help increase safety for others.
If you are a dog owner of a dog that bites someone else, ensuring the protection of others while allowing your dog to have a healthy and happy life going forward requires expertise. If you are facing a dog bite lawsuit, consult with a lawyer to learn how to improve the situation.
No one wants dog bites to happen, but when they do, it’s important to take lawful steps to remedy the situation. Dog bite laws in Alabama can be confusing and complicated. If you have questions, contact Pittman, Dutton & Hellums to find out how we can help.