Dog Bites Frequently Asked Questions

Overview Of AL Dog bites Law

A dog owner will be held liable for bites and any other injuries by his dog. However, the statutes only establish liability when the victim was bitten on the dog owner’s property, or the dog pursued the victim off the dog owner’s property. There also is an unusual “mitigation” law which provides a unique defense for the dog owner: if he “had no knowledge of any circumstances indicating such dog to be or to have been vicious or dangerous or mischievous” then he will be held liable only for the “actual expenses” incurred by the victim.

Where Do Dog Bites Or Attacks Usually Occur?
Who Usually Is The Victim?
Small children are the primary victims of dog attacks/bites.
Does It Happen Because The Dog Is Provoked?
It can but doesn’t have to be. If a dog is provoked the dog owner may have a defense.
What Type Of Dogs / Breeds Usually Make Attacks?
Pitbulls and Rottweilers are the most lethal dog breeds. However, even small dogs such as Chihuahuas can bite or attack unsupervised young children.
Are There Any Particular Leash Laws For The City?
Yes. Each particular city or municipality may have their own ordinances that adopt Alabama’s leash law. In Alabama dogs are not permitted to run at large. They must be appropriately confined at all times, either by a leash when off the property or other means to keep them within an owner’s property. A dog owner may be fined for failure to leash the dog.
What Are Some Of The Injuries That Usually Happen, What Areas?
Someone could experience puncture wounds, infections, scarring, nerve damage and/or emotional damage. You often see injuries to people’s face, arms, legs and neck. Puncture wounds may not bleed a lot or look terribly bad but they need to be taken seriously to prevent possible infection. Infections can also be caused by dog scratches and the very young and elderly may be more susceptible. Scarring and nerve damage are some of the most serious injuries from dog bites. Scarring can be permanent and can serve as a reminder of the traumatic experience. The scarring can also shake a person’s self-confidence. Nerve damage can also lead to mobility issues and long term pain.
What Are Some Common Misconceptions People Have About Dog Bites?
Many people think we will have to file a lawsuit or sue the person to receive any compensation for their injuries. In most dog bite cases, a lawsuit and even a trial is not necessary. Many times an attorney can reach a settlement with the insurance carrier without ever having to file suit.
Who’s Liable For A Dog Attack?
The owner of the dog. A landlord may also be liable if he knew or should have known that the presence of a tenant’s vicious dog shared by other tenants created a dangerous condition. However, most victims will be compensated through a home owner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
What Would A Victim Of A Dog Attack Be Entitled To?
They would be entitled to compensation for their past and future medical expenses. Future medical expenses are often for cosmetic work (to make a scar look better). Cosmetic work is never covered by your health insurance and that is why these damages must be recovered now. They would be entitled to compensation for any pain and suffering, lost wages, sick days or vacation time.
Have You Ever Worked With An Individual That Is Hesitant To Pursue A Case?
Yes. The dog owner may be a friend, family member or relative and people are hesitant about filing a claim because they think it will destroy or damage that relationship. Dog bite injuries are covered under the owner’s home owner policies or renter’s insurance policies. These policies typically have a minimum of $100,000 in coverage and they do not require the payment of a deductible or co-payment so the owner will not have to pay anything in the way of compensating the victim.
What Happens To The Actual Animal?
It depends. Typically animal control will make those calls. The dog may be required to have a muzzle placed on it every time it is in a public place. The dog may be required to be confined in a dog run or a kennel. In the most serious and extreme cases if the dog is found to be a menace to the community, animal control may attempt to put the dog down.
What Sort Of Psychological Effects Have You Seen Someone Endure?
Unfortunately many dog bite injuries include scarring and/or disfigurement. Not only is this very painful but oftentimes people become very self-conscious about their appearance. Some people even suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and/or depression.
Let’s Re-Cap What Is The Process And /Or The Steps One Should Take?
You should report the bite to animal control. Animal control should be made aware of the dog’s location that bite you so they can ensure the dog will not injure another person. Animal control will also draft a report and that is paramount in your case. The report will list the owner of the dog and what other witnesses are saying. You should also seek immediate medical attention for any injuries you may have sustained and begin documenting your injuries and treatment. Contact an attorney asap.
How Long Could A Take Potentially Take?
It really depends. This will be totally dependent on how long it takes for the victim to heal. In dog bite cases we need to pay particular attention to scarring. We will need to wait until the scars have matured and we know the final extent of the damage. There may be nerve damage. We need to make sure there is not a lasting disability. We need to be certain of the extent of injuries before we can determine an appropriate settlement. Additionally, we will need gauge the insurance companies’ actions. Are they treating the victim fairly? Are they offering a fair settlement based on the extent of the injuries? If the insurance company is not treating the victim fairly or offering a fair settlement, we may need to file a lawsuit and push the case towards a trial.
What If The Dog Did Not Have An Owner And It Was Roaming The Streets? You Can Prove The Injury But Don’t Have Access To The Dog?
We will need to attempt to locate the owner. You should report the bite to animal control and provide them with a description of the dog. Animal control will attempt to locate the dog and then its owner. If the dog got loose or was let out to roam, the dog owner may still be liable for any injuries the dog caused. If no owner is ever found you will likely need to get a rabies shot as a precaution.
I Understand That It Was Usually Not The Intention For The Owner To Have Their Animal Attack Someone; However, Are There Any Concerns With Amateur Dog Breeders Who Have A Habit Of Having More And More Dangerous Animals?
Absolutely. Many states now even have breed specific laws. Breeds such as Pitbulls and Rottweilers may be considered dangerous animals from the outset and their owners may be subject to a stricter liability for owning these types of animals. Additionally, some insurance companies may implement exclusions in their home owner’s or renter’s policies that would exclude certain breeds that are considered inherently vicious or dangerous.
Are There Any Instances In Which A Dog Owner Would Face Criminal Charges?
Potentially but the owner will likely just be civilly liable. Dog fighting is a felony. To train a dog to fight or to own a dog for fighting is a felony. It is a felony to cause dogs to fight for amusement or for monetary gain. To be a spectator is also criminal. In the event of a dog fight, the dogs will be confiscated.
What Are Some Of The More Challenging Aspects With Dog Bite Cases?
Some people are really afraid to place any kind of blame on the owner. The owner may be someone they know really well or may be a family member. Victims are worried about ruining relationships or having that friend or family member’s dog put down. People need to remember that the vast majority of these types of cases are settled outside of court and just as soon as the doctors have done as much as they can do to get that individual back to maximum medical improvement. We remind our clients that we will treat this case tactfully and will not make any unnecessary accusations. Most of the time the individual’s home owner’s or renter’s insurance policy will cover any damages. Thus, the dog owner will not have to come out of pocket to pay any legal fees or compensation to the victim for their injuries.
What If A Dog Attack Were To Happen On A Minor? Does That Make Any Difference?
As far as liability goes probably not. However, a minor child’s injuries could be much more severe since they may not be able to defend themselves as well as an adult.
When You’re Meeting With A Client, What Are Some Things You Would Ask Them To Prepare For You Or Bring?
An incident offense report or animal control report if they have one. If they do not have a report, I would want to know the dog owner’s name and address. If they know the owner, we may also ask them to provide the owner’s insurance carrier name and contact information. I would also want to know a list of their medical treatment providers as well as their treatment plan.
What Would You Say Are The Most Dangerous Dogs Around (Or The Ones That Most Frequently Make Attacks)?
Statistics show that Pitbulls are the cause of more fatalities than any other breed. Rottweilers are number 2 on that list.

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