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If you or your loved one was bitten by another person’s dog, the dog owner may be held responsible for your medical bills and other expenses under certain circumstances. The specific facts of a dog attack are important in determining whether the pet owner was negligent and a personal injury claim is in order. Let an experienced Huntsville attorney who understands new Alabama dog laws review your injury and explain your legal options. The Lawyers for dog bites at Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., are available to help if you or your loved one has suffered a serious dog bite. If you have been severely injured, we have the experience and knowledge of the law to offer effective legal representation. We will answer your questions and explain your legal options during a courtesy consultation. If we can help you, we will offer to represent you on a contingency fee basis so that you have no upfront costs. You will not owe a legal fee unless we are successful in obtaining money for you. Contact us today at 256-677-4376.
Table of Contents
- 1 Do You Have a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
- 2 Dog Bites
Do You Have a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog in Alabama, you may have a claim related to your injuries. The costs of dog bite injuries have been increasing due to rising medical costs. Alabama’s dog bite laws are complicated. An experienced premises liability lawyer can review the facts of the attack and discuss your legal options.
Alabama law provides several different grounds on which a dog bite victim may legally obtain compensation. An Alabama dog bite statute (Ala. Code § 3-6-1) states that a dog owner is liable if a dog bites or injures another person who has a legal right to be on the premises or who has just been chased from the property by a dog. If you are invited to a friend’s house or you are a customer at a retail business, for example, then you have a legal right to be on the premises. Someone who is unlawfully trespassing on another’s property or does not have implied consent may not have the same legal standing to claim compensation for a dog bite injury. You must be lawfully on the property of the dog’s owner when the bite occurred. Postal delivery workers, meter readers, and public utility workers are considered to be legally on private property when performing their jobs, under Alabama law. Under the statute, a dog owner in Alabama may be liable for damages caused by a dog bite injury, such as medical bills and lost wages, regardless of whether the owner knew the dog posed a danger.
If the dog bite occurs away from the owners’ premises, then the case may be governed by rules of common law negligence. In cases where the dog bite statutes do not apply, the plaintiff may need to show that the dog owner knew the dog was dangerous or had previously bitten others in order for the victim to be entitled to damages for their injuries. Some people claim there is a “one bite rule;” however, the actual test is whether the dog “displayed vicious or dangerous propensities.” Dangerous behavior is not limited to a prior “bite,” and it could include other behavior which shows the dog poses a danger to humans.
In a negligence case, the factors that will be examined to determine the liability of the dog owner include whether the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous, whether the animal had previously bitten anyone, whether the attack was provoked, the breed of the dog, and the legal status of the person who was bitten. For example, had the dog ever bitten anyone? If so, then the dog owner should have foreseen that the dog posed a potential risk of causing injury.
Local laws such as leash laws and running at large laws may apply and affect the dog owner’s liability. For example, a municipality’s leash ordinance may create a duty for a dog owner to physically confine a non-mischievous or non-dangerous dog to the owner’s premises. This may lead to liability for a type of negligence called negligence per se.
If a dog attack occurs in a public place such a Huntsville park, the dog owner may be found to be negligent for violating the leash ordinance or running at large laws. If a dog owner allows a vicious dog to roam free or the dog gets loose as a result of the owner’s disregard for safety, the dog owner may be held liable for the injuries incurred by the animal to another person, were local law applies. Our attorneys can review the specific facts and determine whether a dog was violating local ordinances.
In some cases, a landlord may be liable for injuries resulting from an attack by a tenant’s dog if the landlord knew, or should have known that the tenant kept a vicious dog on the premises, and the landlord had the ability to control its presence.
What Compensation is Available After a Dog Bite?
In Alabama, the damages for which you may seek compensation include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, mental anguish and permanent injury. Damages for permanent disfigurement may be recovered where the dog attack causes permanent scars. In some cases, punitive damages may be recovered. Punitive damages are awarded to punish and deter bad behavior. Punitive damages may be appropriate where the dog owner’s conduct was wanton and reckless; more than merely negligent.
Our attorneys will gather the facts of the dog attack including medical information about the extent of your injuries and the cost of your medical bills. The law applies to all injuries caused by a dog, such as a fracture caused by being knocked down. If we determine that the dog owner was liable for your injuries, we will prepare and present your claim to the dog owner’s insurer for full compensation. We will negotiate aggressively on your behalf for the maximum settlement. Most dog bite claims are settled out of court, but our attorneys will be prepared to file a lawsuit and proceed to court to seek justice if it is in our client’s best interest.
Were You Injured in an Unprovoked Dog Attack?
About 4.5 million people suffer dog bites each year and about 885,000 people sustain injuries that are serious enough to require medical attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children represent about half of dog bite victims each year and are more likely to be seriously injured. Many children are naturally drawn to animals and want to pet them. A young child may not recognize signs that a dog is feeling distress and is ready to bite. Most dog bites suffered by children involve familiar animals.
Certain dogs are a serious threat because of their unprovoked attacks on people and the failure of the owners to confine and control the animals. A dog that has bitten, attacked or caused injury without being provoked may be legally declared a dangerous dog. The owner of a dangerous dog may need to keep the animal in a secure enclosure with a roof and post signs declaring a dangerous dog and no trespassing.
Question and Answer
If you are bitten by a dog, seek appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible. After you have been treated, consider consulting an attorney with experience handling dog bite cases to determine whether you have a valid claim and what damages are recoverable under the law. An attorney will ask for information about how your dog bite happened. You may attempt to determine the name and address of the dog owner and find out how recently the dog received a rabies shot. Dog owners are required to have their dogs immunized and should have a printed certificate showing the date of the immunization. Contact the county animal control office after a dog bite and provide information about the dog owner and a description of the dog and where the attack occurred. Animal control will confirm whether the dog is up-to-date on rabies vaccination and may test the dog for rabies. Animal control may issue a citation to the dog owner if the animal is not properly confined. Consult with your doctor about whether you are at risk of rabies and need follow-up treatment.
If the dog owner is liable for your injuries, a claim will be presented to the dog owner’s insurance company. The dog owners’ homeowners and renters’ insurance policies typically will cover injuries related to dog bites. The insurance company may make a settlement offer. Claims related to injuries from dog bites have increased significantly in recent years and represented more than a third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims paid out in 2015, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The Institute reported the average cost for dog bite claims was more than $37,000 in 2015.
Alabama generally allows victims of dog bites two years from the date of the attack to file a personal injury lawsuit. Investigating and preparing a lawsuit takes some time, so it is important to contact a dog bite attorney to review the facts of the incident as soon as possible. The lawyers at Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., are prepared to start investigating a serious dog bite accident promptly, and are committed to preserving evidence of the attack. Speaking with a knowledgeable attorney after a serious dog bite can give you an understanding of your legal options and some peace of mind. Our attorneys will treat you with respect, answer you questions and, work hard to provide effective legal representation. If a dog has injured you or a loved one, call us today for a free consultation.