Dog Bites

Dog Bite Accidents in Joplin, MS

If you or a loved one is injured from a dog bite, you may be able to recover compensatory damages for your losses.  Like car accidents and slip and fall cases, the purpose of a damage award is to compensate the injured party with money, with the intention of making him “whole.”  But, how prevalent are dog bite accidents?  Are they as common as car accidents, for instance?  The statistics might surprise you. Dog bite statistics may be frightening According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 4.7 million dog-bite incidents occur in the United States each year. Of those 4.7 million, approximately 800,000 victims seek medical attention. Half of those victims are children.  Other reports indicate that every day, approximately 1,000 U.S. Citizens seek emergency medical treatment for dog bite accidents.  A study published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and quality in 2010 indicated that the number of individuals hospitalized in the U.S., for dog bite injuries, has doubled over the last 15 years.  Unfortunately, the average medical costs of dog bite-related hospital admissions was $18,200.  The rate of emergency room visits related to dog bite injuries is substantially higher in rural areas. What you can do to avoid being a victim These statistics are certainly not comforting. But they can be less alarming if you have sufficient information to potentially avoid becoming a victim.  One thing you must do is we aware of your own behavior around animals.  More importantly, if you know why dogs actually bite in the first place, you will be more likely to avoid a dangerous situation. Why dogs may be prone to biting Typically, dogs bite due to stress or being scared or threatened.  Dogs are also very protective, not only of their puppies but also of their owners.  If they are startled or not feeling well, they may lash out.  They also bite accidentally during play, especially rough play.  If you keep these common triggers in mind when you are around dogs that do not belong to you, it will be easier to recognize a potential situation and avoid the possible danger. What makes a dog dangerous? There are certain breeds of dogs who are historically known to be aggressive or very protective.  Historically, these traits we encouraged because of the breeds’ usefulness as hunters or herders.  A significant source of undesirable traits primarily comes from irresponsible breeding, or “bad breeding” practices that potentially pass on a genetic tendency towards aggression.  In other words, there are some breeders who seek to create “tough” dogs. Unfortunately, there are those breeders who seek to breed dogs for fighting or guarding. Another source of aggression and undesirable traits is neglect by dog owners. Protecting yourself against the risk of liability As far as protecting yourself from liability, some people consider purchasing dog liability insurance, especially if they own a dog recognized as a “dangerous breed.”  These special policies can give you peace of mind, just in case a situation ever arises.  It is better to be proactive, rather than reactive.  Some landlords may even require such insurance. If you have questions regarding dog bites or would like to speak to a Joplin, MS dog bites attorney, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

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Dog Bites

Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Bite Laws

When it comes to liability for a dog bite injury, laws can differ depending on which state law is applicable. Basically, liability depends on whether the owner of the dog had actual or constructive knowledge that the dog would bite someone. That means, did the dog owner know or should the dog owner have known that the dog was dangerous a likely to bite? In the majority of states, one of two theories of liability is followed: strict liability or what is referred to as the “one bite” rule. Understanding which law applies in the state where you live or where you are injured is important. Let our Rogers personal injury law firm explain the differences between the laws in the two states where we practice: Arkansas and Missouri. How are the dog bite laws in Missouri and Arkansas different? Arkansas is different from most states in that it does not have a specific dog bite statute. Arkansas courts determine the law based on prior decisions of the court on various dog bite claims. This means that the decision will typically depend on the specific facts of each case. The majority of Arkansas cases apply the “one bite” rule or some type of negligence theory. On the other hand, Missouri does not follow the “one bite” rule but instead enforces strict liability when there is an actual dog bite. This is not true for cases of injuries caused by a dog jumping on or chasing someone. Those cases are decided based on general negligence. How is strict liability applied to dog bite cases The most common rule followed in dog bite cases is strict liability. This theory of liability basically says that a dog owner is liable for dog bite injuries to another person regardless of any knowledge they had or did not have that the dog was likely to bite. Liability is also imposed regardless of whether the victim could have done anything to prevent the injury. All that is necessary is to show that the victim was not trespassing when the dog bite injury occurred and the dog was not provoked by the victim. If, on the other hand, the victim was not lawfully on the premises, the dog owner may not be liable. If you question whether strict liability applies to your situation, consult with our Rogers personal injury law firm. How does the “one bite” rule work? Historically, dog owners were typically not held liable for their dog biting someone unless the owner had a reason to suspect that the dog might bite. The theory is referred to as the “one bite” rule because dogs were basically allowed to bite someone only once before the owner would be held responsible. Once the dog bit one person, the owner was then on notice of the dog’s propensity to bite someone. Presently, the rule is not that simply applied in that not every dog is allowed “one bite.” If it can be shown that the owner had reason to suspect that the dog might be aggressive and bite, liability may still be imposed. For example, certain breeds of dogs or dogs that have received certain types of training could be more prone to biting. Some dogs also exhibit certain personality traits or characteristics that would put a reasonable owner on notice that it might become aggressive and bite someone. Actually biting someone is not required in some situations. Usually, in these cases, it will require circumstantial evidence to establish the required knowledge. Let our Rogers personal injury law firm help. Missouri’s Comparative Negligence Doctrine Although under Missouri’s dog bite law strict liability is applied, a dog owner can always argue that the victim was in some way responsible for his or her injury to some degree. This is referred to as comparative negligence because the court will consider whether to reduce or eliminate damages in accordance with the amount of fault that can be fairly assigned to the victim. In Missouri, a “pure” comparative negligence rule is applied, which reduces damages based entirely on the percentage of fault. For instance, if the victim is determined to be 75% responsible for the injury, the court will reduce the total award of damages by 75%, leaving the injured person with only 25% of his or her damages. If you have questions regarding dog bite injuries or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Dog Bites

What You Need to Know about Dog Bite Injuries

Your Joplin personal injury lawyers are familiar with the state laws that determine who is liable for a dog bite injury. That liability is typically based on who was responsible for supervising the dog and whether or not that individual knew of any propensity the dog may have had to bite or otherwise be aggressive.  While it is most common that the owner of the dog will be held responsible for any resulting dog bite injuries, there may be other situations where liability may point to someone else. How common are dog bite injuries? According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 4.7 million dog-bite incidents occur in the United States each year. Of those 4.7 million, approximately 800,000 victims seek medical attention. Half of those victims are children. Other reports indicate that every day, approximately 1,000 U.S. citizens seek emergency medical treatment for dog bite accidents.  A study published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and quality in 2010 indicated that the number of individuals hospitalized in the U.S., for dog bite injuries, has doubled over the last 15 years.  Unfortunately, the average medical costs for dog bite-related hospital admissions were $18,200.  The rate of emergency room visits related to dog bite injuries is substantially higher in rural areas. Determining who should be liable for a dog bite injury As your Joplin personal injury lawyers will tell you, the facts of each case are always different. So, depending on the particular facts surrounding your dog bite injury, there may be more than one person who can be held liable. The first step, however, is determining the theory of liability that is followed in your state.  Some states impose “strict liability,” which means the only proof you need is that the dog caused your injury.  If “strict liability” is not followed in your state, then you may need to establish that the dog’s owner knew the dog already had vicious propensities. What if the dog was a stray? It may not happen that often, but being bitten by a stray dog in the neighborhood can happen. But, who is responsible?  Unfortunately, if you are bitten by a stray dog, you will likely not have a legal claim.  Municipalities are not responsible for stray dogs, generally speaking unless the dog was being kept at a local pound and escaped.  But, you must be able to establish negligence on the part of the city, for not properly detaining the dog. This is where your Joplin personal injury lawyers can help. What if I’m bitten by a dog while on the job? If you are required to enter the house or property of a third party in order to perform work, such as household repairs, for example, it is possible to be bitten by the property owner’s dog. Because you are asked into the house to perform the work, the person who owns the property has a legal duty to take reasonable efforts to protect you from injury. That means, if the property owner has a dog, he is responsible for keeping it away from you or at least warning you of its presence. It may also be possible to file a claim for workers’ compensation with your employer if the injury occurred during the course of your work duties.  You may also be able to bring the workers’ compensation claim, in addition to bringing a legal claim against the person responsible for the dog. Compensatory damages in dog bite cases While dog bite cases are a more specific area of personal injury, the types of compensatory damages to which an injured party may be entitled are very similar. Most dog bite cases include damages for medical treatment, loss of income for missed time at work, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment. Again, medical bills and lost income are easy to quantify.  But, other damages require more analysis and consideration of the facts. Damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress Compensation for pain and serious discomfort suffered during an injury, or as an immediate result of the injury can be awarded in dog bite cases.  It is also possible to be awarded a sum of money that compensates for any ongoing pain attributed to the accident. Emotional distress, typically linked to more serious injuries, is intended to compensate an injured party for the psychological effects of an injury.  This could include fear, anxiety, and sleep loss. How do I prove my emotional damages? Though emotional damages are more difficult to prove, providing medical records and reports from counselors, psychologists, and other medical professionals goes a long way to establishing the extent of your injuries. Emotional damages can still be tough to establish, however, Joplin personal injury lawyers have an understanding of this area of the law, and experience pursuing these types of claims. If you have questions regarding dog bite injuries or any other personal injury issues in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation, either online or by calling toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

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Dog Bites

Dog Bite Cases Against the Police

If you’ve ever wandered too close to a neighbor’s fence and been bitten by their dog, for instance, then you know that dog bite injuries are not all that uncommon.  However, most of us would not expect to be bitten by a trained K-9 dog.  But, it does happen.  If you know anything about government liability, you know that suing the city police department for anything can be a challenge.  The recent settlement of just such a case in Florida is a reminder that dog bite cases against the police can be successful. College student bitten by K-9 Unit Back in 2013, a 19-year-old Florida Southern College student was bitten on the buttocks by a Lakeland police dog.  The student and a friend were having a verbal argument in which officers intervened.  According to the police, the two young women were not following the officers’ commands and were ultimately arrested.  While the victim was lying on the ground, handcuffed, a police dog escaped from the patrol car and bit her. Dog bite case against the city settled Ultimately, the student was not charged with any crime, but she still suffered injuries from the dog attack.  A lawsuit was filed against the city for the severe injury she sustained, including damage to her skin and muscle.  According to police, the dog was accidentally released by one of the officers who was arresting the student.  Apparently, there was a device located on the officer’s belt that releases the patrol car door to allow the dog to be released.  It was this remote release that was inadvertently triggered.  The young woman was left with permanent scars and a fear of dogs. Determining liability for dog bites Every state has its own laws regarding liability for dog bite injuries. Determining who is responsible generally depends on who is responsible for the dog and whether that person had notice that the dog was likely to bite. Typically, the dog’s owner is held legally responsible for dog bite injuries. However, there are other circumstances where someone else may also be liable for your dog bite injury. Who should I sue for my dog bite injury? Each dog bite injury case is different, and determining who to sue depends entirely on the facts of your case.  Depending on the situation, there may be more than one person or entity that can be held liable.  For instance, if someone is taking care of a dog for someone else, and that caretaker had control over the dog at the time of the attack, then it is possible that both the dog owner and the caretaker can be held liable. Municipal Immunity from lawsuits When a government entity, such as a city or municipality, is involved in a personal injury claim, the law is different with regard to liability.  There is a defense recognized in every state known as “sovereign immunity.”  This defense protects municipalities from legal actions when an employee is negligent in causing an injury to a third-party, when the injury occurs while performing a governmental function.  However, there are many exceptions to this defense, where the courts have abrogated, or done away with, this immunity.  As such an injured citizen may be able to recover, like in a dog bite case. If you have questions regarding dog bites and municipal immunity, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

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Dog Bites

How is the New York Dog Bite Law Different?

Liability for a dog bite injury is generally based on whether or not the dog owner knew, or should have known, that the dog would bite.  Each state follows its own set of rules in this regard.  The two main theories of liability recognized in dog bite cases are strict liability or the “one bite” rule.  The New York dog bite law is a little different, in that it sort of combines these two doctrines. New York is “mixed” liability state New York’s dog bite law is a unique combination of the one-bite rule with a somewhat limited version of strict liability.  New York’s dog bite statute makes the owner or keeper of a previously adjudicated “dangerous dog,” strictly liable only for medical and veterinary costs.  However, to recover for any other types of damages, New York requires the victim to prove that the dog had the vicious tendency to bite people, and that the dog owner was aware of that propensity.  in other words, New York is a “one bite state” for damages other than medical costs. New York relies on a showing of vicious propensity New York courts have long recognized a claim based on strict liability, when the victim can establish that the dog is vicious and that the owner knew or should have known about such vicious propensities.  New York’s Supreme Court has ruled “that the owner of a domestic animal who either knows or should have known of that animal’s vicious propensities will be held liable for the harm the animal causes as a result of those propensities.” Dog bite laws in Missouri and Arkansas Unlike most states, Arkansas does not have a statewide dog bite statute.  Instead, dog bite claims are decided based on common law, which comes from Arkansas court decisions.  Most dog bite cases in Arkansas are based either on the “one bite” rule or on some theory of negligence. Missouri has a dog bite statute, however, which imposes “strict liability.”  Missouri’s strict liability rule only applies to injuries caused by dog bites.  If any injury is caused by chasing or jumping, the injured person’s claims are then analyzed under a standard negligence theory. Missouri’s comparative negligence rule Although Missouri’s dog bite law is premised on strict liability, the dog owner can still argue that the victim was is some way responsible for the injury, as well.  This doctrine is known as comparative negligence.  Comparative negligence permits the court to decrease or eliminate damages based on the amount of fault that can be assigned to the victim. Missouri follows a “pure” comparative negligence rule, which reduces damages based solely on the percentage of fault.  For example, if the victim is found to be 60% responsible for the injury, the court will reduce the total damages award by 60%, leaving the injured person with a 40% award. If you have questions regarding dog bites, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

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Dog Bites

Can I be responsible if my dog bites my vet?

Despite what most pet owners believe, even your dog could bite someone, under the right circumstances. Although you may have been taking your dog to the veterinary clinic since he was a puppy, there is no guarantee that he won’t bite if he becomes frightened. So, many clients ask, “what will happen if my dog bites my vet?”  Luckily, the laws presumes that veterinarians know this to be true. For that reason, most courts assume that veterinarians knowingly take the risk of injury as part of their job. What are the Expectations of Veterinarians and Their Staff? Because vets are assumed to know and accept the risk of injury and should know from experience how to guard against it, veterinarians are typically not allowed to sue a pet owner if they are injured while treating a dog. The same rule generally applies to veterinary assistants, who also knowingly take the risk of handling animals in the course of their jobs. There may be an exception, though, if a vet unnecessarily exposes an employee to any particular risk of injury. Examples of Legal Issues Involving Vets One court, for example, overturned a $25,000 jury verdict awarded to a veterinarian’s assistant.  The court reasoned that, there was no liability because of the conditions under which a dog had been treated. According to the court, the dog was “in strange surroundings… held by two people he had never seen” and that constituted provocation. The Veterinarian Exception Explained Even dog-bite statutes, which make owners liable for dog bite injuries, typically do not apply when veterinarians are injured. That is because many courts take the position that, because veterinarians take dogs under their control, they become “owners” while the dog is under their care, which relieves the actual owners from liability. Other courts reason that a veterinarian, by treating a dog, is more prone to provoking the dog to bite, and provocation is a defense under most dog-bite statutes.  What many people do not recognize is that provocation does not have to be deliberate or cruel.  It can be very innocent, such as a child accidentally stepping on a dog’s tail. Exceptions to the Vet Rule As with most legal principles, there may be exceptions if, for example, a dog was known by its owner to be dangerous, but the owner concealed that fact from the vet.  There may be a basis for holding the owner responsible if the dog injures the vet in that situation. Dog Bite Laws in Missouri and Arkansas Unlike many states, Arkansas has no statewide dog bite statute. Instead, dog bite claims are decided based on prior court decisions. Most dog bite cases in Arkansas are based either on the “one bite” rule or on some theory of negligence. Missouri, on the other hand, follows the “strict liability” rule. Missouri does not follow the “one bite” rule. However, Missouri’s strict liability rule only applies to injuries caused by dog bites. If an injury is caused by jumping or chasing, the injured person’s claims will be analyzed a standard negligence theory. Contact an Experienced Missouri and Arkansas Dog Bite Lawyer If you have questions regarding dog bites, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (800) 364-8305 or send us an online message.

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Dog Bites

Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries in Missouri and Arkansas

Cases involving dog bite injuries are classified as personal injury cases, just like car accident cases or slip and falls.  Nearly all damages in personal injury cases are considered “compensatory in nature.  That means the purpose of a damage award is to compensate the injured party for all that was lost due to the accident or injury.  A compensatory damages award is intended to make the injured party “whole.” Compensation for dog bite injuries is made through a monetary award, to the extent possible, which means a judge or jury would be required to place a dollar amount on the injuries and other consequences resulting from an auto accident.  Some damages are easy to quantify, such as medical bills, lost income or property damage.  However, things like pain and suffering or the loss of enjoyment of hobbies due to physical limitations, are not as easily determined. Types of compensatory damages available in dog bite cases While dog bite cases are a more specific area of personal injury, the types of compensatory damages to which an injured party may be entitled are very similar.  Most dog bite cases include damages for medical treatment, loss of income for missed time at work, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment. Again, medical bills and lost income are easy to quantify.  But, other damages require more analysis and consideration of the facts. Damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress Compensation for pain and serious discomfort suffered during an injury, or as an immediate result of the injury, can be awarded in dog bite cases.  It is also possible to be awarded a sum of money that compensates for any ongoing pain attributed to the accident. Emotional distress, typically linked to more serious injuries, is intended to compensate an injured party for the psychological effects of an injury.  This could include fear, anxiety, and sleep loss. Loss of enjoyment and loss of consortium When an injury from a dog bite prevents you from enjoying hobbies or recreational activities, such as going to the park or walking your dog in the neighborhood, you may be entitled to damages for loss of enjoyment.  Loss of consortium damages may be awarded when there is an impact on intimate relationships, such as spouses or parents and children. Punitive damages in dog bite cases In addition to compensatory damages, some cases are so egregious that punitive damages are applicable.  If the conduct of the party at fault was so outrageously careless, the court may determine that a punishment is required.  Another purpose of punitive damages is to deter others from the same types of conduct that caused the injuries at issue. Typically, demonstrating the applicability of punitive damages in a dog bite case requires establishing the dog was dangerous by nature, having a history of behavioral problems; the incident was foreseeable; or the dog owner’s conduct was substantially below the standard of care expected of a reasonable dog owner. If you have questions regarding dog bite injuries, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

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Dog Bites

When is a Dog Owner Not Responsible for a Dog Bite?

Typically, when a dog bites someone, the dog’s owner is responsible for compensating the victim for their injuries.  Each state has its own laws regarding dog bite liability, some of which impose strict liability for such injuries.  However, there are some defenses that dog owner’s will assert in order to avoid liability.  So, when is a dog owner not responsible for a dog bite?  Following are some common examples. Common defenses used in dog bite cases Although not all of these defenses are recognized in all states, it helps to be familiar with some common defenses in case you are faced with them during litigation of a dog bite case.  Dog owners may be able to avoid liability if the victim: provoked the dog knowingly took the risk of being injured by the dog was trespassing It is also important to recognize that not all of these defenses apply when the victim is a young child.  For example, most courts hold that, depending on the age, a child is unable to appreciate the risks of being injured by a dog. The dog was provoked A dog owner may be able to successfully defend a lawsuit by showing that the injured person provoked the dog.  Courts have held that hitting and teasing a dog, for instance, clearly constitute provocation.  Provocation does not have to be intentional, either.  If the victim accidentally steps on the dog’s tail, that may still be considered provocation.  There may be an exception to this defense, though, if the dog is known to be easily provoked, but the owner did not take steps to avoid that type of situation. The victim knowingly risked being injured One of the most common examples of a situation where this defense applies is when the dog owner has a “Beware of Dog” sign displayed prominently in his yard.  Another situation where this defense is usually applicable, is when individuals have jobs working with dogs, such as groomers, veterinarians and kennel owners.  They are generally presumed to voluntarily take the risk of being bitten.  Again, there may be an exception if the worker has not yet taken control over the dog.  For instance, if a groomer has not yet accepted custody of a dog (which is showing signs of aggression), then the groomer may not have accepted the risk. The victim was trespassing In most states, dog owners are not liable to trespassers who are injured by a dog. In general, a trespasser is someone who did not have permission or was not invited onto the property. However, in some states, unless you warn people to stay off your property with signs or locked gates, you are considered to have given an “implied invitation” to members of the public to approach your door.  So, if your child climbs a fence to retrieve a ball from the neighbor’s yard and is bitten by a dog, he will likely be considered a trespasser.  In some situations, there may be a legal responsibility for a dog owner to either prevent a child from coming on the property or to keep the dog from injuring the child. If you have questions regarding dog bite defenses, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

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