Q and A on Animal Bites
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Thousands of Americans are bitten by animals every year. Most common are dog bites, but many other types of animals can and often are involved. Oftentimes, a person bitten by an animal may have a right to recover any damages they have suffered. It may be possible to recover from the animal’s owner or if there was another responsible party.
What Should You Do If An Animal Bites You?
Immediately seek proper medical attention after any kind of an animal bite. Whether it be a dog bite, cat attack or another type of animal, bites can be deadly even if they do not appear to be very serious at first. Not getting treated is very dangerous, as any animal bite can cause serious injury, and/or infection. After receiving a medical evaluation, consider consulting a lawyer who has experience with animal bite law. Your attorney will be able to tell you whether or not you have a legal claim, who the responsible party is, and what, if any damages you may be able to recover.
What Does My Attorney Need to Know About the Animal Bite Attack?
Your bite attorney will want all of the information about the circumstances involved in the animal bite attack. Be sure that you can provide the name and phone number of the animal’s owner, in addition to the location of the incident. Provide the attorney with the names and contact information for any witnesses as well.
Who is Responsible for Dog and Animal Bites?
In California, the animal’s owner is legally responsible for any animal bite caused by their animal. Whether or not the owner had any reason to believe that the animal was dangerous, if the animal is involved in causing injuries, the owner would still be liable. Injuries suffered in a pet store, for instance, or at a horse stable, would more than likely be covered by the business’ liability insurance. As long as the bite victim was legally on the property, the owner has the legal responsibility to keep people safe from harm. You have the legal right to be safe, as long as you are not contributing to the problem. For instance, you did not tease the animal, or drop or improperly hold it, or intentionally cause it any harm.
Why Are Animal Bites So Dangerous?
Not just dogs, but cats, pet rats, rabbits, almost any kind of animal, can deliver a
potentially serious or deadly infection from just a small bite. Most animals, even ones who have been properly inoculated against rabies still carry dangerous germs in their mouth. Even just a small bite or deep scratch can result in a terrible infection. These infections can, if untreated, lead to a loss of limbs or life. This is one of the reasons why medical treatment is so important.
There are some instances where an owner of a known vicious animaitel might not be held liable, however. for an attack by the animal. For example, if the animal owner adequately warned other people that the animal was dangerous, and took measures to keep the animal away from people, a person who ignored the owner’s warnings and was injured by the animal might not successfully sue the owner. In legal terms, the injured person’s behavior in such a situation is known as “contributory negligence” or “assumption of the risk.” An injured person is contributorily negligent when he or she fails to exercise the degree of care for his or her safety that a reasonable person would exercise under similar circumstances.
For example, if a person climbs over a fence and is bitten by a dog on the other side, a jury could decide not to hold the dog owner liable if they believed that a normal reasonable person would not have climbed over the wall in the first place. To use another example, if the owner puts up a “Beware of Dog” sign, and a person ignores this sign and gets bitten by the dog, the owner might not be responsible for that person’s injury. If the animal owner is claiming either “assumption of risk” or “contributory negligence,” however, the owner has the burden of convincing the jury of these arguments.
An animal owner can also argue that the injured person provoked the animal, and this may be a way for the owner to avoid liability. For example, if a person makes a threatening gesture toward an animal, and the animal attacks, this could negate the owner’s liability.
Other Potential Responsible Parties
Animal owners are not the only people who can be held responsible for animal bites. Here are a few common scenarios where someone other than the animal’s owner could be held liable for an animal bite:
- Animal Keepers: Anyone who is responsible for the care or custody of an animal may be considered an owner or keeper and can be held responsible for an animal bite. Examples include kennels, a pound, or an animal sitter.
- Parents of Minors: Even if a person under 18 years of age owns the animal at issue, in many states an injured person can bring a legal claim against the minor’s parents, even if the parents had no direct involvement with the animal.
- Property Owners: A property owner can be liable for injuries caused by an animal that the property owner allowed onto his or her property.
- Landlords: If an apartment landlord knew (or should have known) that a tenant owned a dangerous animal, the landlord may also be liable for animal bite injuries.
What Damages Can You Recover?
Depending on the seriousness of injuries resulting from an animal attack, you may be entitled to recover for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage.
In some instances, you may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are awarded to punish someone for his or her behavior. To justify an award of punitive damages, the wrongdoer’s conduct usually must be more than negligent, such as reckless or intentional conduct. For example, if a dog owner knew his dog was very dangerous, yet repeatedly allowed the dog to run free near a school, and the dog eventually attacked a child, a jury could conclude that punitive damages were appropriate.
If an animal has bitten you or a loved one, you may be entitled to recover damages for any injuries that resulted. Determining your legal rights can be complicated, and it may be unclear who to bring a claim against, and to what sort of damages you are entitled. To ensure that you receive just compensation, you should consider contacting an attorney with experience handling dog/animal bite cases.