Did you or a loved one get bitten by a dog and need legal help? Check out these 8 dog bite tips, then call our Hamburg attorneys today.
Determining a Good Dog Bite Case
A viable dog bite case is one in which it is possible to prove that the dog has demonstrated at least some vicious propensities. It’s even more helpful if the dog also looks vicious. That visual image tends to help the bite victim’s case. I believe it has much more jury appeal when, instead of a little toy poodle that rips into someone’s face, the dog involved is a Rottweiler or a pit bull.
When it comes to setting up the liability for your case, it’s important to be able to show that you, as the client, did nothing wrong that could have caused that dog to act the way it did. In other words, you were just minding your own business, or you just reached down to pet the dog, and the dog attacked you. Showing those two things – the dog’s propensity for viciousness and that you didn’t do anything wrong – are a couple of important factors that we look for when going forward with a dog bite case.
Dog Bite Injuries
Typical dog bites usually depend on the person. We find with young children that they tend to get more injuries to their face. This is because they tend to place their face into the dog’s and the animal gets snippy and ends up biting the child. Some of those cases can be tragic. Some of the other injuries we see are joggers, or people around the neighborhood. They get bitten on the leg or a “defensive wound” where they are trying to fight the dog away and they get bit on the hands. Sometimes those are severe because the hand and wrist have many tendons. If a dog tears or severs a tendon, their ends up being a lot of medical treatment, and maybe even surgery.
Dog Bite Claims
We have many situations where people are bit by dogs and the first thing you have to find out is whether that dog had its rabies shots. You have to identify who the owner is. You want to report it to the local police agency, or if they have a dog control person, report it to them. They can verify whether or not this dog had its shots. If it didn’t, you might be in a situation where they have to quarantine the dog and test it to make sure that you don’t need to get rabies shots and things of that nature. Beyond that, if it is a serious dog bite situation, the dog bite laws in New York are a little different than some other areas or some other states in that we have to show that the dog had some type of vicious propensity to act in the way it did before your actual incident. We like to get people out canvasing the areas, talking to neighbors, mailmen, UPS drivers, FedEx drivers, etc. People are in that neighborhood all the time that may have had contact with this dog that may be able to shed light on whether or not this dog has some vicious propensities in the past.
We had a case where we got an affidavit from a mailman that actually saved our case and talked about how this dog would go after him every time he delivered the mail. When you have those types of things, it really helps us get over the hump as far as proving the dog’s vicious nature.
Questions You Should Ask the Owner of a Dog that Bit You
We handle dog bite cases all the time. In fact, we just got one recently. My client was all worried about what information they needed to obtain from the dog owner, and I said to them, “You need to find out – first and foremost – whether the dog is up to date on its shots.” If not, the dog needs to be tested to make sure it’s not rabid so that you don’t have to go through additional medical treatments. That’s the first thing. In cases like this, the law in New York is kind of like a one-bite rule. In bringing your claim, you have to show that the dog or other animal – it could be any kind of animal – has previously shown some type of vicious propensities by doing something similar. These cases are difficult because, especially when you’re dealing with people’s house pets, that propensity issue can be hard to prove.
With these types of cases, it’s very important to get your attorney involved early because we can do things like talk to the mailman, the UPS driver, and FedEx drivers who deliver to that house. We will ask them whether the dog has ever shown aggressive tendencies and so forth. We’ve even had cases where our investigator has gone out and videoed the dog acting violently toward others by running at the fence, growling at people and things like that. That proof can help set up these types of claims. Dog owners tend to be protective of their pets, and they don’t want to admit that, “Oh yeah, our dog bit little Johnny down the street before.” You’re not going to get that all the time, so it’s really important to get your dog bite attorney involved early and investigate as quickly as possible.
Dog Bite Insurance Coverage
Homeowner’s insurance does cover dog bite cases and if the dog owner has renter’s insurance, the renter’s insurance may cover it as well. We’ve had some situations, though, where people have a dog and the dog has bit somebody, and the insurance company then puts an exclusion in the policy for future bites of that particular dog. We’ve had that situation come up before in a really tragic case involving an English bulldog that attacked an elderly woman and there was an exclusion in the policy. It’s important to make sure that there’s coverage in place right away, when we get these claims, because we want to make sure that there’s a source to get people compensated for their pain and suffering. Many times with these dog bite cases, it’s not so much the medical treatment – because a lot of it is scar related – it’s the permanent effect of having that scarring. Sometimes tendons get severed during a bite and there may be some surgery involved, so we really want to make sure that there’s coverage available and do our investigation. Like I said, we hire investigators to go out and canvas the area and talk to people in the neighborhood about this particular dog. We want to make sure all those things are done up front.
Dog Bites and Uninsured Owners
If the owner of the dog doesn’t have insurance, you could be out of luck as far as pursuing a claim. We tell people all the time, if there’s not insurance coverage in place to protect you, then unless the guy has a substantial amount of assets, you’re really not going to have an easy time getting recovery from that person. You could get a judgment against him for his negligence in caring for this dog or harboring this dog, but because it’s a negligence situation, he can always file bankruptcy to get rid of that judgment against him. If someone does have some assets, sometimes we can do some things to get you some compensation for your injuries. It’s not always what you would hope for, but it may be something. It makes it really difficult if there’s not insurance involved.
The Responsible Party of a Dog Bite Case
When someone is bitten or attacked by a dog, it might appear that the dog’s owner is the responsible party, but this is not always the case. Perhaps the dog is owned by one person but is temporarily living at somebody else’s house, for example. The law states that the dog needs to be contained and adequately controlled, and that obligation extends to everyone to whom the owner entrusts the dog as well. If you are in a situation where there is a dog attack, you will need to inquire about the ownership of the dog, who was supposed to be watching it, and the address of where it was staying. Provide an attorney with this information so that he or she can determine who really could be responsible for not adequately securing the dog.
Beware of Dog Sign Liability
Owners of dogs also have a duty to warn people that are coming on their property if they have a dog that has some vicious propensities. Sometimes you see these “Beware of Dog” signs, and it could affect your case to some extent because you’re on notice that that dog may be a little violent or vicious, so you should exercise more caution yourself. That can be used against you. There’s a thing in the law called comparative fault, where it’s not only the negligence of the person who has the dog, but the negligence of the person that was bit. We see it sometimes with younger kids when they do things to aggravate the dog or get the dog to respond in a vicious nature toward them. That’s used against you. The same thing with the “Beware of Dog” sign: you have some knowledge that something’s up with this dog, so you have to exercise more care around the dog and maybe not even enter the property. If you’re a delivery person or somebody like that, you’re on notice; maybe you need to get another way to communicate with the owner of the house to deliver what you have to deliver but not enter the property.
Were you or a loved one attacked by an animal and have questions about these 8 dog bite tips? Contact a Hamburg dog bite lawyer at Chiacchia and Fleming today for a free confidential consultation and case evaluation. Let our experience work for you.
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