What Is Animal Bite Liability Law?
Victims injured by animals have legal options available
on February 10, 2020
Updated on April 21, 2022
Animals—domestic, livestock, and wild—pose a potential safety threat to people. The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes that animal bites remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality around the globe. In the United States, one of the primary safety hazards comes from “man’s best friend.” According to data cited by the Canine Journal, approximately 4.5 million people nationwide are bitten by dogs each year. Many other animals injure people as well.
An injured person has many options available. Domestic animal owners, property owners, and other parties may be held legally responsible for injuries caused by an animal bite. The following information is designed to serve as a brief introduction to animal bites and animal bite liability. If you or your family member was injured by a dog or any other dangerous animal, you should contact a top-rated animal bite liability attorney for immediate help.
Animal Bite Liability Law – What You Need To Know
- Animal liability laws typically arise at the local level, and your right to recover damages will depend on your city and state regulations.
- Suppose you or your family member suffered a severe injury caused by an animal. In that case, you must get the financial compensation that you need to pay for medical treatment and support your family.
- Animal bite cases are highly fact-specific, so it is essential that incidents are thoroughly investigated by a top-rated personal injury lawyer with experience handling animal liability claims.
- The amount of available compensation will vary based on the severity of your injuries, your ability to prove liability, and the laws in your state.
An Overview of Animal Liability Law
For the most part, animal bite liability laws arise at the state level. If an animal injured you, your right to recover financial compensation from another party would depend, in large part, on your specific state laws. That being said, other regulations could be a factor as well. For example, certain cities and towns have municipal regulations regarding dog ownership or animal ownership.
As animal bite cases are highly fact-specific, any incidents must be thoroughly investigated by a top-rated personal injury lawyer with experience handling animal liability claims. An attorney will be able to review the specific circumstances of your case, explain the applicable state and local laws, and advise you on next steps to take to pursue justice and compensation.
How Animal Bite Lawyers Help Injured Victims
In a legal context, civil liability is the state of being responsible for something. Animal bite lawyers are effectively personal injury (tort) attorneys representing animal attack victims. Many different unique issues could potentially arise in an animal bite claim. Common cases handled by animal bite liability attorneys include:
- Dog Bite Claims (Strict Liability States): A severe dog bite injury can cause physical, emotional, and financial distress. Most U.S. states (more than two-thirds) have strict liability dog bite statutes. Black’s Law Dictionary defines strict liability as a form of liability that arises without finding negligence or wrongdoing. In effect, these state dog bite laws hold that an animal's owner is automatically liable if their canine bites another person. In many of these states, compensation can be sought for economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) through a strict liability statute. However, an injured victim may still need to prove fault to recover compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress.
- Dog Bite Claims (Dangerous Dogs States): Not all U.S. states are strict liability jurisdiction for dog attacks. In a minority of U.S. states, the owner of a dog is only liable for a dog bite if they knew or should have known that their canine had dangerous propensities. You may hear these laws referred to as "one-bite rules"—meaning a dog owner is only liable for a bite if their dog has previously displayed aggressive behavior towards people, usually in the form of a prior bite.
- Negligence Claims Against Property Owners (Premises Liability): Dog bite cases, and other animal liability claims may be pursued against non-owners. These types of personal injury cases generally fall under premises liability law. A plaintiff in a premises liability animal bite claim typically must prove that the defendant (business or property owner) acted negligently. Further, the plaintiff must also show that the defendant's negligence (recklessness or carelessness) contributed to the animal attack.
- Livestock Injury Cases: Livestock can be dangerous. Whether it is a horse, cow, pig, or another farm animal, the owners and any other responsible parties must take the proper precautions to protect people from undue risk.
- Other Animal Bite Claims: Animal bites can also occur in several different contexts. If you were bitten and seriously injured by an animal, an experienced attorney can help you identify all possible options for pursuing financial compensation for your damages.
Animal Bites Require Immediate Medical Attention
All animals require immediate medical attention from a licensed physician. Nothing is more important than your health, safety, and well-being. You should always be able to be treated by a qualified medical professional after suffering a severe injury. Indeed, severe dog bites or other animal bite injuries require prompt emergency medical care. Seemingly "minor" or "moderate" animal bite injuries should be seen by a doctor as well. If any animal—including a dog or a cat—penetrates the skin with its teeth, there is an infection risk.
An Overview of Compensation that May Be Recovered After an Animal Bite
If you or your family member suffered a severe injury caused by an animal, it is crucial that you can get the financial compensation that you need to pay for medical treatment and to support your family. The amount of available payment will vary based on the severity of your injuries, your ability to prove liability, and the laws in your state. An experienced animal bite injury lawyer can help you build a well-supported legal claim. Depending on the nature of the animal attack, an injured victim may be entitled to financial compensation for:
- Ambulance fees and emergency medical treatment;
- Hospital bills and other medical expenses;
- Rehabilitative care, including skin grafts;
- Mental health support & counseling;
- Loss of current and future wages;
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress;
- Permanent scarring or physical disfigurement;
- Long-term disability or impairment; and
- Wrongful death of a close family member.
Common Questions About Animal Bite Claims
Dog bite and animal attack claims can be stressful, confusing, and overwhelming. It is always important to take a proactive approach. Unfortunately, you cannot rely on an insurance company for guidance with a legal claim. One of the first steps you should take is setting up an initial consultation with an experienced lawyer. A consultation is your opportunity to get answers to your questions about animal attacks. Here are some of the most common questions that people ask animal bite liability lawyers:
- What are the specific steps I need to take to protect my legal rights and interests?
- Who can be held legally liable for my animal bite injuries?
- What is the statute of limitations in my animal bite injury case?
- How much compensation can I recover through a personal injury claim?
- What can I expect when dealing with defendants and insurance companies?
- Are there any legal defenses that the other side can raise in my case?
- Can I sue for an animal bite if I was trespassing?
Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs
It is essential to approach the right type of personal injury attorneys—professionals who can advise on the common law and statutes around animal liability. You can visit the Super Lawyers directory and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location.
To help you get started, you may want to consider looking for a lawyer who practices animal bite liability law.
Why Super Lawyers?
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As Super Lawyers is intended to be used to select a lawyer, we limit the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public. You can learn more about the selection process here.