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Don't Be In The Dark About Our Legal System

Hello, I'm Karla Mitchell. Going through a legal case can be very expensive and challenging. I won't go into details, but I recently underwent my own legal battle that lasted several years. It is finally over and I successfully received a settlement, but I had to spend so much time studying law in order to play my role in my own court case. While I found a great attorney at one point, I felt completely lost initially and I don't want anyone else to experience the same thing. So I decided to create this blog for those who would like to know more about law.


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Don't Be In The Dark About Our Legal System

Dog Bite Lawsuits—Tips for Victims of Canine Attacks

by Andrew Martin

Dog bites hold a unique place in popular culture. On one hand, literature is rife with comical references to mail carriers being harassed by our furry little friends. It almost seems cute when it pops up in this context. However, as any real victim of a dog attack can tell you, these situations are no laughing matter.

In the United States, approximately 1,000 people require emergency treatment for dog bites each day. These events cause economic hardship and psychological trauma to victims all across the country. If you've been attacked by a dog recently or if your daily life takes you to places where dogs are frequently present, you need to understand the basic criteria by which dog bite lawsuits are considered.

Criterion #1—You Were Attacked or Bitten by a Dog

This one seems self-explanatory. You wouldn't consider yourself the victim of a dog attack if you weren't attacked by a dog. However, as with many legal matters, this isn't as simple as it sounds. That's because injuries can often be caused by a dog that do not involve a direct attack. For example, a nonaggressive dog could cause a person to slip and fall while rushing to enter its owner's home or automobile. 

That's not to say that injuries caused by nonaggressive dogs are immune from legal action—just that the situation isn't as simple as when a dog actually attacks. A legal professional is your best bet when considering these types of situations. That said, when you are directly attacked by the dog in any fashion, your case meets the first basic criterion for dog-bite statutes.

Criterion #2—The Person Being Sued Is the Dog's Owner

The owner is almost always responsible for the conduct of a dog. However, particularly in larger cities, people who walk dogs regularly are paid employees and not the dogs' owners. Also, children are often primary caregivers for dogs but are minors in the eyes of the law. This can create difficulties when you decide to pursue legal action.

If you're bitten by a dog in a public place, you need to verify that the present adult or caretaker is, in fact, the owner. If they aren't, or if no adult is present, you will need to obtain the owner's contact information immediately. It's also a good idea to determine the relationship of the adult or caretaker to the actual owner. That way, even in states where the legal landscape is convoluted regarding dog bites, you'll know who you need to deal with.

Criterion #3—You Didn't Provoke the Dog

Interestingly enough, the law protects dogs from provocation by humans. This means that, under certain circumstances, the court might find that a dog bite was justifiable—leaving you with no legal recourse. Common instances of this include physically disciplining the dog or threatening the dog's owner.

That said, dog owners often have a different definition of provocation than the courts do. Owners often know that a dog does not like to be handled in a certain area or that they're possessive of a specific toy. These are usually not considered elements of provocation in a legal sense, even though they'll certainly agitate the dog.

Criterion #4—You Were Legally Present

It seems obvious, but if you were bitten by a dog in a place where you had no legal right to be, you likely have no legal recourse. When dealing with burglary, it's easy to understand why this is the case. Not all cases are that simple, though.

For example, if you were cutting through a neighbor's yard with no ill intent, you were still likely trespassing. If you were on the sidewalk or road next to that neighbor's yard, however, you were in public space. That's why it's important to know and document exactly where you were when the attack occurred.

If your situation meets these criteria, you could have cause to file a lawsuit. It's a good idea, under these circumstances, to speak with a personal injury lawyer immediately. Due to variations in state statutes, it's the only way you can be certain that your rights are protected to the fullest extent.