Dog bites can occur unexpectedly, leaving victims and dog owners alike grappling with the aftermath. If you or a loved one were recently bitten by a dog, you may have many questions about your legal options and how to proceed.
Our comprehensive guide contains expert insights from dog bite attorneys on what you need to know about dog bite liability laws. We’ll provide practical advice on what to do if you’re bitten by a dog, helpful prevention tips, and how a knowledgeable, experienced attorney can assist you.
The Prevalence of Dog Bites
Dog bites are unfortunately common occurrences that can result in severe injuries. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dog bites happen to approximately 4.5 million people in the United States yearly. Out of these incidents, about 800,000 individuals require medical attention, with over half being children.
Dog bites can happen anywhere at any time. In an incident that grabbed national attention, President Biden’s German Shepherd, Commander, reportedly bit staffers in the White House and U.S. Secret Service officers on several occasions.
The Grandelli Firm has a long history of representing victims of dog bites and attacks. Recently, our firm represented a Staten Island family whose daughter was viciously attacked by two dogs. As a result, the young girl incurred multiple serious injuries, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Fortunately, The Grandelli Firm was able to secure a $2,300,000 resolution on behalf of the young girl and her mother.
Understanding Dog Bite Liability Laws
In New York, the legal liability for dog bites falls primarily on the dog’s owner or the person responsible for its care at the time of the incident. It may also fall on the owner of the premises on which the dog bite occurred.
The owner may be held accountable if they knew or should have known about their dogs’ aggressive tendencies or “vicious propensity,” such as previous confrontational behavior or prior attacks under this rule. A dog owner’s knowledge of vicious propensities may be proven by showing evidence of prior acts of a similar nature of which the owner had noticed. Or even if the dog had been known to growl, snap, bare its teeth or otherwise act in a threatening manner toward other people.
Also, potentially relevant is whether the dog owner chose to restrain the dog, and the manner in which the dog was restrained. The fact that a dog is kept and trained as a guard dog may infer that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities.
Steps to Take Following a Dog Bite
Taking these steps promptly following a dog bite will help protect your rights, gather necessary evidence, and ensure your well-being is prioritized throughout the entire process.
- Move to a safe area away from the dog and seek medical attention if needed.
- If possible, identify the dog and locate its owner to collect their name, contact information, and address.
- Notify the appropriate authorities or agencies, such as the local animal control agency, non-emergency police line, or the designated authority responsible for handling dog bites.
- Take pictures of your injuries, broken clothes, and where the bite happened.
- Document the incident, noting the date, time, location, description of the dog, and a chronological sequence of events leading up to and during the bite.
Legal Options for Dog Bite Victims
In addition to dealing with physical injuries, victims often face emotional distress and financial burdens such as medical bills and lost wages. However, dog bite victims have legal rights and options available to seek justice and compensation for their injuries.
Dog bite victims can file a lawsuit against the dog owner or other responsible parties. However, certain elements must be proven to pursue a successful lawsuit as described above. Every case is different, and the liability analysis is fact-specific, so we urge dog bite victims to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Compensation and Settlements in Dog Bite Cases
Compensation for dog bite victims can include the below categories of damages. However, note that each dog bite case is unique, and the compensation received will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the skills of the legal representation.
- Past and future costs of medical care, such as emergency treatment, hospitalization, surgeries, medicines, therapy, and other costs related to treatment.
- Past and future pain and suffering includes physical pain from the bite and treatment, emotional trauma, and psychological distress.
- Loss of enjoyment to life because of the bite, including the partial or complete inability to participate in activities the victim enjoyed before the incident.
- Lost wages for paused income due to the victim being unable to work for an extended period and potential future earnings.
- Other damages, including property damage, such as torn clothes or damage to personal belongings, or additional out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the incident.
Prevention Tips: Avoiding Dog Bites
By understanding dog behavior and implementing precautionary measures, you can help ensure the safety of both humans and animals.
Follow these tips if you own a dog:
- Socialize your dog early or as a puppy in classes that expose them to various environments, people, and animals.
- Teach your dog commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come” to provide a level of control.
- Keep your dog on a leash if you feel you cannot control your dog.
- Make sure your yard is safe and fenced in. This will stop your dog from roaming around and meeting strangers.
Take these steps to prevent dog bites from other dogs:
- Act cautiously around unfamiliar dogs.
- Never leave children unattended with dogs, regardless of their breed or size.
- Ask permission from the owner before approaching a dog.
- Be aware of behavioral cues that may indicate aggression or discomfort in dogs, including growling, snarling, bared teeth, stiff body posture, or a fixed stare.
Seeking Legal Help in Dog Bite Cases
You or a loved one does not have to face the legal and emotional aftermath of a dog bite alone. Professional legal advice from qualified dog bite attorneys, such as the legal team at The Grandelli Law Firm, can protect your rights and help you navigate dog bite liability laws.
Each dog bite case is different, and a one-size-fits-all approach won’t suffice. Contact us for a free consultation, including tailored advice based on the specifics of your case. We’ll help you build a solid legal strategy, advocate on your behalf, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.