San Antonio Dog Bite Attorney - Legal action can be a good way to hold the responsible parties accountable for the pain and medical bills caused by a dog bite. Dog owners, insurance companies and landlords may all be held accountable depending on the circumstances.
Over 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Of these, more than 800,000 require medical attention. If you have been bitten by a dog, it is important to know your legal rights. Contact Chapa Law Group PC to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your options. We can provide you with a clear explanation of your rights and help you make the best decision regarding your dog bite case.
Dog Bites and Common Law
Of the millions of people bitten by dogs each year, the majority are male and under 15 years of age. The cost to the insurance injury for paying out dog bite claims tops over $317 million per year.
Under common law, in order to receive compensation for a dog bite injury, the plaintiff has to prove that the animal has dangerous propensities and that the owner knew or should have known of these propensities. "Dangerous propensities" means that the dog exhibited any characteristic, trait, habit or tendency prior to the attack that could result in harm to another human being. Even an animal that is overly affectionate could have dangerous propensities, such as jumping on people or chasing after them. Generally, the breed of the dog alone is not enough evidence of dangerous propensities.
Proving the owner's knowledge can be very difficult, especially if the dog has never harmed anyone previously. Some factors that may be considered to prove the owner's knowledge of the pet's dangerous propensities include whether the owner posted warning signs, received previous complaints about the dog's behavior, kept the dog restrained or kept the dog as a watchdog.
Dog Bite Statutes
In response to the onerous burden placed on plaintiffs in dog bite cases by the common law, many states have passed dog bite statutes that eliminate the requirement of proving the owner's knowledge of the animal's dangerous propensities. Generally under these statutes, the dog owner will be liable for any injury caused by the animal in public places or on the owner's private property if the injured person was legally on the property. This is known as "absolute liability" because the dog owner is liable so long as the dog caused the injury, regardless of his or her knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities. However, dog bite statutes also may provide available defenses to the defendant. For example, some statutes provide an absolute defense to dog owners if the injured person was trespassing on private property when the injury occurred. Since dog bite statutes vary by state, it is important to find out if your state has one and what it requires.
Some states have a negligence standard for dog bites. In these jurisdictions, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to use reasonable care in preventing foreseeable injuries by his or her dog, and that the defendant failed to do so, resulting in injury to the plaintiff. Negligence is a minority rule and has largely been replaced by dog bite statutes. However, some states retain the negligence rule and it may apply to your situation.
The defenses available in a dog bite cases will vary by the type of jurisdiction you live in - whether the majority rule is strict liability, negligence or your state has enacted a dog bite statute. The following information on available defenses is only general information. To find out which defenses are available in your state, contact an attorney who can provide this information to you and tell you how it may impact your dog bite case.
Assumption of the risk: the plaintiff voluntarily exposed himself or herself to risk. This defense depends on the facts of the case, but the plaintiff had to have knowledge of the risk before it can be shown he or she voluntarily exposed himself or herself to it. This can include ignoring posted or verbal warnings.
Provocation: the plaintiff provoked the animal into biting or attacking. This can include teasing, chasing, yelling or abusing the animal. An unintentional act also can be provocation, depending on the circumstances. However, if the act was unintentional, the dog cannot respond disproportionately to the act. Additionally, the provoking act must happen at the same time or near the time of the dog bite.
Contributory or comparative negligence: the plaintiff's own negligent acts are partly or entirely to blame for the dog bite. This is closely related to assumption of the risk. The majority of jurisdictions recognize comparative negligence over its strictly construed counterpart, contributory negligence. Under comparative negligence, the damage award may be reduced or eliminated depending on the plaintiff's role in causing his or her injury.
Trespassing: the plaintiff illegally and/or without permission entered the defendant's property and was injured. In some states, trespassing is an absolute defense. However, in other states, an owner may still be found liable even if the plaintiff was trespassing.
The typical damages that may be available in a dog bite case include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Medical Expenses - Current and Future
- Lost Wages
- Lost or Impaired Earning Capacity
- Disability and/or Disfigurement Resulting From The Injury
In cases in which the dog attack resulted in death, additional damages may be awarded for:
- Wrongful Death
- Loss of Consortium
- Loss of Companionship
- Loss of Services of a Family Member
- Emotional Distress
Not all of the damages listed above may be available to you. Applicable law and the facts of your case may limit the available damages or provide additional sources of compensation. For specific information on the damages that may be available to you for your injuries, contact Chapa Law Group PC
San Antonio Dog Bite Attorney - (210) 298-5500