The neighbor’s dog was a bit too hungry and chomped a little of your arm? The cute dog in the park didn’t like you leaning in for a pet on the head? Studies and reports indicate that every year, nationwide, dogs attack and injure almost 5 million people. Statistics I have seen indicate that there are hundreds of deaths annually. I love dogs, but I wonder if they all deserve the “man’s best friend” distinction.
When I was six, I went outside of my house and some teenage boys were riding their bikes down the street. Some dogs were chasing them. One of the dogs ran over me. I wasn’t physically injured, but thereafter I had a fear of dogs for years. The effect of dogs attacking can be highly traumatic in many ways.
Dog laws vary from state to state, and even from locality to locality within a state. Your rights when you have been bitten, however, generally involve a few key facts. The analysis of these facts will either support or lessen the strength of a claim you might want to make.
First, the location of the attack is important. In most city and neighborhood areas, it is usually true that dogs must be on a leash whenever they are outside of the home. Not so much in many rural areas, where people do not worry about this since there are fewer people around.
Next, provocation is seemingly always an issue, and the insurance companies (usually the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance carrier) will question if you did anything that would make Fido go into protective or attack mode. Reaching to pet a puppiy in front of its mother, or reaching to take food away from a dog are probably not your best moves and might well be considered provocation.
Continuing, the dog’s history is always going to be important. Did the dog ever attack anyone before? Is there a history of aggressive behavior by the dog, such as aggressive barking, showing teeth, growling, snarling, curling lips, lunging, snapping? Some states will not make owners responsible if their dog had no prior aggressive history.
Here is my advice on how to avoid potential harm. Under no circumstances should you approach a dog if you are unfamiliar with the animal. Particularly if you are in their home: it is their basic instinct to protect their environment. Never leave any animal alone with children. Remember that animals are never 100% predictable.
If you have been attacked, what to do is simple. Hire a personal injury attorney that has experience handling dog bite cases. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, disruption of your life, psychological pain, suffering, aggravation, and other concerns.
What happens to the dog or the dog owner you may ask? It depends. Depending upon a classification a dog may have, the owner will have varying responsibilities for securing the dog, with violations ranging from fines to possible imprisonment. The dogs may have to be euthanized.
The law sometimes makes a distinction between the words “dangerous” and “vicious” when classifying dogs.
A vicious dog is generally one that exhibits tenancies towards aggression, or that has already attacked or bitten another animal or human. Dog breeds are not normally considered vicious by legal definition (but certain dog breeds may be considered universally dangerous). However, individual dogs, based on their own unique behavior, may be considered vicious according to the law. An example of this can be found locally in Prince Georges County, Maryland, where pit bulls are simply banned.
As you may have guessed, a dangerous dog is a more serious classification. Various definitions can be found around the country, but a dangerous dog generally is one that has attacked, inflicted severe injury to, or killed a human being or a domestic animal without provocation while off its owner’s property.
In 2001, two presa canario dogs (considered to be one of the most dangerous dog breeds in the world) attacked and killed a California woman. The dog’s owner was charged with murder.
In May 2007, the California Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction and the owner was given the maximum sentence: 15 years in prison.
How much is that puppy in the window?
Assure your homeowner’s insurance is paid up and that your dog is well trained, so your family, friends and neighbors aren’t accidental victims of Fido’s bad behavior.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, on the Andy Parks show, on Wednesdays at 5:15 P.M., and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.
His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.
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