Dogs, like any other animal, can pose dangers to humans. Despite the domestication process, some dogs can revert to their instinctual level and act out aggressively. For dog owners it is an easy thing to pick up on the behaviors of your own pet — but it is another matter when the dog is not your own. If you have been bitten by a dog that is not your own you have the option to sue the owner of the dog, or the landlord of the property where you were bitten. Whether the injury was minor or severe, most states have laws guaranteeing you the right to pursue legal action and compensation for your injuries.
One of the reasons why you can sue after a dog bite, and why you ought to consider it, is that you will likely be incurring medical costs that you would not otherwise have to pay. Dog bites not only damage the surface area (the skin), but they run the risk of causing infection. This can determine the cost and length of stay, whether it is a simple doctor’s visit or a hospitalization. It is for this reason that you would want to pursue a compensation claim.
Compensation claims for dog injuries do not only involve medical bills — in some cases you can sue for lost income from work, property damage (like eyeglasses or clothing), or any persisting scars or disability. A good local dog bite injury attorney can usually help you evaluate any potential claims from the beginning.
Alabama common law follows the “one-bite rule” for dog bites, meaning that the person bitten by a dog can recover “actual expenses” incurred if the dog owner “had no knowledge of any circumstances indicating such dog to be or to have been vicious or dangerous or mischievous.” The statute, section 3-6-1 of Alabama Statutes, outlines it thusly:
If a dog bites or injures a person in a place where they have a legal right to be without provocation, the owner of such dog shall be liable for the damages to the person so bitten or injured. Still, such responsibility shall arise when the person so bitten or injured is on property owned or managed by the owner of such dog when such bite or injury occurs, or when such person was immediately before such time on such property.
When a dog bites or injures someone, the dog owner is solely responsible for compensating the victim for “the actual expenses” they experienced as a result. While this places limitations on what you can recover, it is not the only way or reason for you to pursue a lawsuit against the dog owner.
Alabama law also considers the dog owner’s negligence alongside the one-bite rule. To recover damages for negligence, the plaintiff must provide evidence of liability, in that the defendant had knowledge that an act or conduct is wrongful, or in other words It can be “demonstrated that the owner was previously aware of the animal’s harmful or mischievous habits.” (Williams v. Hill (Ala., 1995)). If the dog has, for example, bitten someone in the past, then the owner is liable. Additionally, the courts in this state have held that keeping a high-risk breed of dog — like pit bulls or German Shepherds — can constitute negligence. Having a dog bite someone while the owner fails to comply with local laws, like leash laws, can also count as a negligent act. These are all reasons why you should want to pursue a case.
Another category where you would want to pursue a lawsuit is premises liability, or landlord liability. If it can be proved that a landlord or property owner has not shown reasonable care towards the prevention of injuries from a dog, then they can be included in your lawsuit.
While it may not be desirable to sue someone for the actions of their dog, it is important to bear in mind the responsibility they must keep their animal at its best behavior. This failure to act results in over 4.5 million dog bites per year. The laws that have been written are meant to protect those individuals who have been bitten, and it is important to know what avenues are available to you should the need arise.