Dog/Animal Bites - FAQ
Q: If my neighbor's dog bit me on my property, do I have a legal claim?
A: It depends on the circumstances. You will need to determine, for example, whether your state imposes "strict liability" on dog owners. If so, you may only need to prove that the dog injured you. If your state does not have a strict liability law, you may need to show that your neighbor knew or should have know of the dog's vicious propensities before it attacked you.
Q: Can a person bring a legal claim if he or she was bitten by a stray dog? If so, against whom?
A: Most likely, a person bitten by a stray dog will not have a legal claim. Municipalities are generally not responsible for stray dogs. If, however, a dog is being kept at the local pound and escapes and bites you, you may have a claim against the pound. If you can argue that the pound's negligence caused your injury, you may be able to recover damages.
Q: Do I have a claim if I went to a house to perform work, and was bitten by the property-owner's dog?
A: In most cases, if you are asked into a house (or onto property) to perform work for someone, the person who owns the property has a legal responsibility to take reasonable efforts to protect you from injury. Thus, if the person has a pet, the person might be responsible for keeping the pet away from you, or at least warning you of the presence of the animal. Note that you may also have a workers' compensation claim against your employer. Because every case is unique, however, you should consult an attorney for further clarification.
Q: A police dog bit me. Do I have a claim?
A: It depends on the circumstances. Police cannot use unreasonable force when making an arrest or performing any other duty. The improper use of a police dog can constitute unreasonable force. If this was the case in your situation, which is something you should have an attorney help you determine, the police may be required to compensate you for your injuries.
Q: If a dog bit me while I was working, can I file for workers' compensation?
A: If the injury occurred during the course of your normal work duties, you will most likely be able to file a claim for workers' compensation with your employer. In addition to your workers' compensation claim, if the owner of the dog is not your employer, you may be able to bring a legal claim against that person as well.
Q: My city has a "leash law." If a dog owner violates this law, is she liable for injuries caused by his dog?
A: Generally, yes. If an owner violates a leash law, and her dog attacks someone, many courts will hold that this fact alone is enough to conclude the owner was negligent, and that the injured person is entitled to compensation from the dog owner. To determine whether your city or state has a leash law, you should contact a local attorney.
Q: Can a person be imprisoned for keeping a vicious animal?
A: Yes, there have been numerous instances where people have been criminally convicted for knowingly owning dangerous animals. In some instances, owners have been found guilty of murder when an animal's attack killed another person. Sentences have ranged from severe fines to significant jail time.
Q: If someone else's animal kills my pet, do I have a legal claim?
A: If your pet is injured or killed by another animal, you may be entitled to receive "compensatory" damages. The amount may include the purchase price of a similar pet, registration of a purebred animal, licensing, shots, and training costs. Additionally, if you spent additional money on your pet -- other than for normal veterinary bills -- you should be compensated for such sums. In some cases, you may be able to receive compensation for mental anguish, loss of the companionship of the pet, and even punitive damages. Because the laws differ in each state, you should check with an attorney for further information.