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A dog is considered man’s best friend, but there is also a responsibility for your pet that extends beyond taking care of it. According to Michael Ghozland, a personal injury lawyer serving the Los Angeles area, over 4.5 million dog bites occur every year. A dog bite lawyer may be more of a necessity than you think, as “it is no defense that the dog owner had no reason to know of the dog’s aggressive tendencies – he is strictly liable for bite injuries caused by his dog.”
Not only can injuries be extensive, depending on the animal, determining fault can be difficult. Legal help may make the difference between you getting compensation for hefty medical bills and having to go it alone.
I’ve Been Bit, What Do I Do?
Once you get bitten, your immediate concern should be nothing about your compensation or anything legal, but your immediate health. An animal bite, from a domestic or feral dog, can lead to infection and further medical complications if not treated. Depending on the severity, you may want to be driven to emergency care or contact first responders. Regardless, don’t wait when it comes to your medical attention. If you can’t identify the dog’s owner, you may also need to get rabies shots.
At this point, you can begin to take the steps that will include the foundation of any potential legal case you choose to make. This includes identifying the dog in question as well as its owner. Be sure to obtain any relevant names and addresses along with witness information. You may also want to photograph your injuries. It is also recommended to file a dog bite report with city and county authorities. This helps provide help to the next victim down the line if there is one. At this point, you’re ready to get to the legal portion of handling your dog bite recovery.
Weighing Your Legal Options
While preparing for legal recourse is important, before actually taking the step, take a moment to consider the situation. Do you have a valid case for injury or loss? And perhaps more importantly, is it worth the time and money?
For example, a minor puncture wound and stay in the ER generally won’t incur enough cost to be worth going to court. For this reason, most dog bite victims end up reaching some settlement with the owner out of course. However, if you are seriously injured or incurred some sort of other loss (a dog killing livestock, for example) then it may be worth taking the step.
What state you live in is going to play a large role in how you choose to approach your case. For example, in some states, more burden is placed on the owner, meaning that if the dog bites someone, fault on the part of the owner does not need to be established. In this case, you will need to provide answers like whether the person who was bitten was lawfully on the property where the bite occurred, and whether he or she did anything to provoke the dog. This is part of the reason why the steps we mentioned early are so important, as they will help clear a lot of this up. Other states use a variant of the classic “one bite” rule, where the focus is more on whether the owner knew or should have known that the dog might bite and whether the owner took necessary precautions based on that knowledge.
If this sounds like a lot of things to keep track of, then you may be correct in that it seems like a lot of work for little rewards. This is why most dog bite cases end up in small claims court if anything. However, especially for certain dogs, there is the potential for injuries that could surely cause loss of income or worse. In this case, a dog bite lawyer will be an essential asset for helping you work through a legal situation that can often be difficult to solve.