Dog Bite Injuries
There are about 800,000 dog bite and dog attack victims in the United States every year. One in six of dog bite injuries is serious enough to require medical attention. Seventy-five per cent of dog-bite injuries are to the face. Scarring is often a common and permanent result. Children are three times more likely to be bitten than adults. In fact, dog attacks and bites are one of the top five causes of children's emergency room visits in the U.S. Sadly, the most vulnerable are the most victimized; dog bites to children under 10 years old are the most severe.
Small children are at the highest risk for dog bite injuries, and, unfortunately, the bites are usually to their face, sometimes causing life-long scarring. The majority of dog bite incidents happen on the dog owner's property.
Is a dog owner liable to the dog bite victim? Sometimes. In New York, a dog owner, or anyone who harbors a dog, is strictly liable for dog attacks and bites only if it can be shown that: (1) the dog had "vicious propensities" (which means a tendency to attack or bite) and (2) the owner knew or should about the vicious propensities.
The almost iron-clad way of proving a dog owner knew of his dog's vicious propensities is to show that the dog bit someone else before. Where there has been no prior bite, you can prove the owner knew of the dog's vicious propensities by showing that the dog tended to growl, snap or bare its teeth at people. Other evidence of an owner's knowledge that his dog was dangerous are that the owner chained or tied the dog up or had fenced it in, or he kept the dog as a guard dog, or put up "beware of dog" signs, or told people that the dog was dangerous.
Although any dog can bite, some breeds, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, are notorious for their viciousness. In most cases, it is because they were trained to be vicious. When these dogs bite, they mean business; together pit bulls and Rottweilers account for about 70% of dog-bite fatalities. Even so, New York courts have rejected the theory that certain breeds can be "assumed" more "vicious" than others. In other words, the courts treat all dogs equally in court, no matter what the breed. You have to prove the dog itself, and not just its breed, had vicious propensities that the owner knew or should have known about.
If you or a family member is bitten by a dog, first get medical treatment. Find out for sure (don’t just ask the owner --- ask for written proof) that the dog is up-to-date on its rabies shots.
If the dog owner owes a home, his or her homeowner insurance will likely provide insurance coverage for the victim, provided the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious propensities. In other words, you have to prove the dog owner is “liable”. If not, the insurance carrier will likely deny coverage. This happens most often if it is the dog’s first bite.
If you can prove the dog owner is liable, then his or her insurance carrier will be liable for (1) your medical expenses; (2) your lost wages, if any; and (3) your pain and suffering compensation, including compensation for having permanent scarring, if any, or for having to suffer anti-rabies shots, stitches, etc. Most homeowner’s insurance provides at least $100,000 in coverage. If a dog owner does not own a home, there likely will be no insurance, although some renters do have “renters’ insurance”.
Good dog bite lawyers hire private investigators to canvass the dog’s neighborhood, search for dog authority records, and talk to mail deliverers and others in search of proof that the dog had bitten someone else before, or at least demonstrated aggressiveness. That’s how where your proof of “liability” generally comes from, so it is important to thoroughly investigate the dog’s history.
The Syracuse, New York dog bite injury attorneys of Michaels & Smolak have recovered millions of dollars for dog bit victims and for other injuries to cover their medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. If you or a loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog, CONTACT US for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation.