For any serious dog owner or pet parent, the potential for a dog bite looms large—a genuine concern for many households and communities alike. Unfortunately, if it does happen, serious legal and financial implications are likely to follow. That’s what this guide is all about everything you need to know about proving negligence in a dog bite incident.
From the complex legal definition of negligence (and all the nuances that come with it) to producing the necessary evidence to prove it in court, this guide aims to break down all the pieces of the puzzle so you can have the best chance of getting the justice you’re looking for. Beyond that, it’s also essential that you understand the financial costs associated with a dog bite incident and how to receive compensation.
Let’s not delay, then! It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty—here is the definitive guide on proving negligence in a dog bite incident.
What is Negligence and Who is Liable?
Negligence refers to the breach of the duty of care that one party has towards another, resulting in injury or damage. In the context of a dog bite incident, negligence can refer to an individual’s failure to take reasonable care to guard against any foreseeable risk created by the presence of their pet. Generally, either the dog’s owner or a person possessing control over the animal may be liable for damages caused by a dog bite.
The law may apply strict liability rules if certain circumstances show that the owner should have been aware of the potential risks but still allowed the animal to remain in a situation where it is reasonably foreseeable that someone may be injured. Strict liability does not require proof of fault on the part of the defendant but rather holds them responsible for whatever harm their animal causes, even if basic safety measures were taken by both parties involved.
On the other hand, negligent liability involves demonstrating that there was some type of negligence on behalf of an individual, and they are therefore responsible for any damages caused. Examples of negligent acts that could amount to liability could include failing to secure an animal or keep it away from people they may harm, as well as ignoring signs that an animal was anxious, aggressive, or dangerous.
This concept can be difficult to establish, however, providing evidence such as previous incidents involving the same animal and warning signs will be useful when attempting to prove cognizance and responsibility for injury caused by a dog bite. In any case, dealing with negligence in a dog bite incident, it’s important to consider all angles when trying to determine who is liable and how best to provide evidence in support of that claim.
Once a claimant has established negligence in a dog bite incident, they must determine the various elements validating their suit. In this section, we will explore what those elements are and how they factor into establishing liability.
Elements of a Dog Bite Injury Liability Suit
Once it has been established that a dog bite incident could qualify as negligence by the owner, there are many elements involved in bringing a legal case. A dog bite injury liability suit may be brought if the claimant is able to prove damages, fault, and causation. Damages involve personal injury or financial loss as a result of the incident, while fault requires proof that the owner was either negligent or knew or should have known about the dog’s propensity to harm and failed to act. As for causation, this must be proven by linking the defendant’s conduct with the plaintiff’s harm.
It is important to look into the particulars, which vary across jurisdictions when it comes to bringing a dog bite injury liability suit. Depending on where you live, there may exist various claims or defenses that can determine whether a person or their insurance company will take responsibility for the damage caused. Some states follow strict liability laws, whereas others practice comparative negligence or one-bite rules where damages may be reduced from what could have been granted if not for the victim’s own action. It’s also possible for fault and liability to be shared between both parties in some cases.
That being said, it pays to learn your local laws and speak with a professional lawyer about all your available options before deciding upon your best course of action. It is possible with sufficient evidence that an agreement can be reached without going to court, though that isn’t always how it works out. In any event, a comprehensive understanding of what is required in order to prove negligence and ultimately recover damages can help pave the way towards getting justice and/or financial compensation for any losses resulting from a dog bite incident.
Now that we know what elements compose a successful lawsuit when proving negligence in a dog bite incident, let us evaluate what other conditions must be met before an owner can commit such an offense, namely, did they fail to meet a statutory duty?
Did the Dog Owner Fail to Meet the Statutory Duty?
The next point to consider when evaluating the liability of a dog bite incident is whether the dog owner in question failed to meet their legal duty pertaining to the incident. The legal duty assigned to dog owners varies slightly depending on the state’s laws. Generally, there are three primary legal duties that dog owners owe other individuals:
- duty to warn
- duty to control
- duty of care
The duty to warn may be breached if the owner fails to give reasonable advance warning or notice of danger, which is often imperative for strangers or people without previous knowledge of the animal(s). This requirement can also extend beyond warnings specific to dangerous animals required by law or owned by an individual. For example, even if no law exists specifying that a certain animal is dangerous, it is sometimes necessary for an animal owner to give a reasonable advance warning in order to meet their duty of care regarding the animal in question.
The second element requires the owner of an animal exercise reasonable control over an animal given their propensity known already or normally shown by similar animals. The degree of control an animal needs can vary with both its type and size, as well as contexts such as its location, the presence (or absence) of fencing, etc. Deficiencies in control can reflect negligence on behalf of the owner and can also result in a finding that they breached their statutory duty towards others. The degree and nature of what would constitute ‘reasonable’ control are typically assessed on a case-by-case basis based on all relevant facts.
Finally, meeting modern standards for care requires certain expectations from pet owners, such as taking precautionary measures like having not just good but great fencing, properly leashing one’s pet whenever it leaves one’s property, and not leaving it alone with young children who might not understand how to interact with animals safely. If something goes awry due to one’s failure to satisfy any or all of these requirements or expectations at large, then that could render them liable for negligence involving a dog bite incident.
When evaluating a person’s potential liability resulting from their dog biting another party, courts will consider all relevant circumstances surrounding the action taken (or lack thereof) by that particular party in order to determine if they breached the legal obligation imposed upon them regarding care and control of their pet(s). All evidence linking any potential breach to the injury sustained by another person—whether physical or monetary—will factor into this determination and be considered when exploring liability for a dog bite incident involving that particular person and/or animal(s).
Now that we have considered whether or not a dog owner met their statutory requirements when it comes to the liabilities associated with these incidents, our attention shifts towards considering if professional guidelines were followed (and/or ignored) leading up to the injury.
Were Professional Guidelines Ignored?
It is also important to consider if any professional guidelines were ignored in relation to the dog bite incident. Medical and/or veterinary guidelines must have been followed as required by law. On the one hand, it could be argued that if the dog owner had been given proper advice about how to care for the animal, and then neglected to adhere to those instructions, then negligence on behalf of the dog owner may be established. On the other hand, it could be argued that even with proper instructions and advice, there was no way of knowing when or if a risky circumstance would arise, and thus the dog’s biting behavior couldn’t be foreseen and prevented completely.
No matter which side is argued, it must be thoroughly investigated as to whether relevant medical protocols were ignored or not taken into consideration. Examples of evidence that could prove this include medical records, veterinary documents, or consultations with potential witnesses such as neighbors or animal control officers who may have interacted with the dog prior to the incident.
This line of investigation can provide valuable insight for assessing who exactly should be held responsible for a dog bite incident. It’s critical to take all possible evidence into account before making any determinations regarding negligence.
With this in mind, it’s necessary to apply similar diligence when deciding what type of legal action or strategy to take if pursuing a case. Assessing documents such as medical records or reports from experts can provide the basis for building a solid legal case. With this said, we’ll move on to looking at how all forms of evidence should be handled and collected in order to prove negligence.
Collecting Evidence to Prove Negligence
Collecting evidence to prove negligence is an important step in determining liability in a dog bite incident. Both sides should be heard when collecting evidence, as both parties can strengthen the argument. For instance, if the owner has news clippings or medical records of the dog being diagnosed with aggressive behavior, this could indicate that they took reasonable steps to avoid the incident. If there are medical records indicating that the victim received serious injuries, such as broken skin tissue, then this could support the victim’s case and also prove negligence on behalf of the owner. Witnesses that were present at the time can provide their account of what happened and provide further evidence for either side’s argument. Photographs of recent vet visits or photographs of visible injuries to either a human or a pet can also be used as proof.
When collecting evidence from both sides, it is important to remain open-minded and to remember that any small detail can help solidify a case. Once all the evidence has been gathered from both parties, it is easier to identify which party was more likely to be negligent in the incident. With this information in hand, one is now ready to identify potential dangerous situations that led up to the incident. It will be essential for future steps in determining liability and obtaining justice for all parties involved.
Identifying the Dangerous Situation
Identifying a dangerous situation is an important step in proving negligence in a dog bite incident. It is important to collect evidence to prove that the dog was in a situation where it posed an imminent risk to an individual’s safety. Debate exists over whether or not certain situations should be considered ‘dangerous’. For example, some may argue that merely having a dog off-leash does not constitute a dangerous situation—it only creates the potential for danger. Others may argue that any situation that increases the chances of injury or harm should be considered dangerous.
When identifying dangerous situations, evidence of prior aggression and familiarity with the dog are key components. For example, consider if the victim had previous interaction with the dog before the incident occurred. If there is evidence that the individual was familiar with the dog, it could suggest that the former felt safe around it or trusted it, thus making its attack more shocking and unwarranted. On the other hand, if there was no prior relationship between the victim and the animal, then it could indicate that something in the environment triggered a violent response from the animal and suggest greater negligence by its custodian.
The above two examples illustrate why each case should be considered separately when attempting to prove negligence in a dog bite incident. Gathering evidence plays a major role in identifying a dangerous situation and crucially proves whether or not negligence has occurred. Understanding all available evidence must be studied in order to help support one’s argument on what poses a dangerous situation. All factors considered, determining whether a situation is indeed dangerous can often determine who holds liability for any damages inflicted by the animal.
Having identified potentially dangerous situations and collected crucial evidence to prove negligence in a dog bite incident, those seeking justice must look towards civil litigation next to fill their claim and potentially receive compensatory damages.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were an estimated 4.5 million dog bites in 2019, resulting in an estimated 329,000 medical visits nationwide.
- A study published in 2018 found that approximately one-fifth (19.6%) of all recorded dog attacks resulted in injury or death.
- A study published in 2001 reported that between 200 and 300 people die every year due to dog bites in the United States alone.
Civil Litigation After a Dog Bite Incident
When it comes to civil litigation after a dog bite incident, it is important to identify the party who is responsible for any injuries or damages that were caused. In most cases, pet owners are liable for the damage their animals cause and can be sued in civil court. Depending on the state in which the incident occurred, specific laws may apply.
The elements of a lawsuit vary depending on the facts of each case, but the plaintiff must typically prove that a dangerous situation existed and that the defendant had knowledge of that danger, yet failed to take reasonable action. Additionally, the plaintiff must establish that they were injured as a result of such negligence. Claims of strict liability may also be applicable if specific statutes exist in the jurisdiction.
For example, in California, Civil Code 3342(a) states: “If a dog bites a person while the person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten”. This removes any requirement for proof of negligence or foreknowledge of danger because California has implemented what is known as strict liability for pet owners when it comes to dog bite incidents. Other states may have similar statutes or common law precedents that determine liability for such claims.
It is important to research relevant statutory requirements and common law precedents in order to bring forward an effective claim. An experienced attorney can help determine which statutes might be applicable and protect claimants’ rights during litigation.
We Understand the Physical and Emotional Toll a Dog Bite Can Take – Let Us Help You Recover
A dog attack can cause not only physical but also emotional trauma, which can have a lasting impact on a victim’s life. At Michael Alan Siddons, our law firm understands the toll of a dog bite accident, and we are here to help you recover both physically and emotionally.
Our experienced dog bite lawyers will work with you to understand the full extent of your injuries and the impact they have had on your life. We will fight tirelessly to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Don’t suffer in silence—let us help you seek justice and start on the road to recovery. Contact us at (610) 255-7500 for a free consultation.