If you have been attacked or bitten by a dog, you may be able to recover monetary compensation under Alabama’s dog bite statutes for damages suffered .There are multiple circumstances in which a person who has suffered a dog bite may be entitled to compensation. If another person’s dog has bitten you, it is he or she will be held liable for injuries. But the owner can only be held liable if the dog bite occurred on the owner’s property or if the dog ran off of the owner’s property to pursue the victim.
Although the owner can usually be held liable for a full range of damages, under what is known as mitigation law, owners have a defense. If the owner of the dog did not know or have any reason to indicate that his or her dog was dangerous or aggressive, then the owner can only be held liable for actual expenses. Sometimes, circumstances, such as owning a dog that has a reputation of being aggressive may satisfy this requirement that an owner be aware of the potential for aggressive behavior in their dog.
When Are You Entitled to Recover Damages?
The owner of a dog who has bitten or attacked another may be held responsible for injuries incurred by their animal if the following circumstances have been met:
1. The victim of the attack did not provoke the dog.
2. The victim was not trespassing on the property where the dog resides.
3. The victim was on the animal’s owner’s property or had been run after by the dog after leaving the property.
If you have been injured by a dog on the owner’s property, you may be able to collect damages for medical bills, lost wages, rehabilitation, psychological distress, and/or disability.
DAMAGES IN DOG BITE CASES
When a dog attacks a person, biting injuries are just one possibility. If a large dog jumps on a person and knocks him or her to the ground, the victim may sustain broken bones, head injuries, abrasions, and additional wounds from the dog’s claws. This is especially possible for elderly victims who are very susceptible to injuries from falling to the ground. Falling may also damage personal property like watches or cell phones.
A lawsuit for a dog attack will fall under the purview of personal injury law, so it is essential for an injured plaintiff to keep records of any and all documentation relating to or resulting from the incident. This can include hospital bills, invoices for ambulance rides or other medical services, receipts from repairing or replacing property damaged in the attack, and copies of all your correspondence with insurance companies, if applicable. This documentation will help support your claim in court and help you establish the extent of your damages.
Damages in a personal injury case come in two main varieties: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are measurable losses such as hospital bills and lost income, and the defendant will compensate the victim appropriately if the plaintiff wins the case. The defendant pays back economic damages at a 1:1 ratio, while non-economic damages work differently. Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering or loss of consortium when a spouse dies. Since there is no firm way to calculate the value of these non-economic losses, the jury will award an appropriate figure after considering the details of the case. If a dog caused a severe biting injury that resulted in significant injury and trauma, the victim can secure compensation for his or her physical pain and mental anguish.
One Bite Rule
In cases in which the plaintiff is asking for damages and the dog bite statute does not apply, he or she needs to prove that the owner of the dog had reason to believe that their dog had the potential for vicious behavior. This is referred to as “scienter”. The only issue is whether the owner knew or had reason to believe as a reasonable person would that the dog had dangerous propensities. The plaintiff may use many circumstances to prove or plead that the owner had sufficient knowledge of or reason to believe that the animal had displayed the potential to act aggressively.
In addition to the previous bite by the dog, Alabama law also looks to the breed of the dog. While we have never handled dog attack case involving dachshunds or similar small breeds, our cases have involved Chows, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds and Dobermans. In short, the Court will look to the breed as evidence of the “dangerous propensity” of the dog.
Landlord Liability for Dog Bites, a Form of Premises Liability
In cases where a home or premises is rented out, if a dog bites or attacks another person, liability could fall onto the landlord, rather than the owner of the dog. The owner of a property has a legal responsibility to prevent and correct dangerous conditions on a property that could result in injury, and this includes prohibiting dangerous animals from entering or residing on the premises.
PROTECTIONS FOR DOG OWNERS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY
If you own a dog and keep the dog on your own private property, a few instances exists where you would face liability for a dog attack, namely, an unprovoked attack on a legal visitor to your property. However, you do not owe any type of duty of care to an intruder or trespasser. If someone illegally enters your home or property for any reason and your dog injures him or her, the trespasser cannot file a lawsuit against you since the dog was basically protecting its home.
The other possible defense against a dog attack lawsuit is provocation. If you can prove that the victim provoked your dog or otherwise encouraged the attack, this can be a solid defense. You may even be able to file a counterclaim against the plaintiff in such a case. Your attorney should advise you of these options as they arise.
Statute of Limitations in Dog Bite Cases
In Alabama, there is a strict deadline for those affected by dog attacks or bites. An injured victim of a dog bite has two years from the date of attack to file a claim with the courts. Because of this, if you have been bitten or injured by a dog, it is essential that you contact an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases as soon as possible following the attack to protect your right to a recovery.
FILING A LAWSUIT FOR A DOG ATTACK INJURY
The first step in filing a lawsuit for a dog attack injury in Alabama is finding the right lawyer to handle your case. Your attorney will file a complaint with the court and the defendant, allowing them a chance to respond. The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits do not go to trial; most plaintiffs and defendants settle outside of court to save time and money, especially when fault is clear.
During the first phases of your case, your attorney will help you prepare for depositions and handle the discovery process, which entails the sharing of evidence between the two sides of a legal battle. This can be a time-consuming process, so be sure to keep records of all of your expenses throughout the process so you can claim compensation for them if you win your case. The defendant in a dog bite lawsuit will face responsibility for all damages directly resulting from the dog attack.
It is important to point out that any recovery for the bite injuries will come from homeowner’s insurance coverage. Dog owner’s do not have “dog bite insurance”. Rather, they have coverage for liability associated with the pets on their property.
What to Expect from the Drake Law Firm
At the Drake Law Firm in Birmingham, our personal injury attorneys have over ten years of experience defending complex personal injury cases. We are a small firm with a practice exclusively dedicated to injury and wrongful death law, and have a nearly 99 percent success rate in the cases we take on. If you or a loved one has been bitten or attacked, call Drake Law for a free consultation. There is no fee unless we recover a settlement for your injuries.