Dog Bite Liability Claim

Even though millions of Americans are bitten by dogs every year, only a few thousand ever receive a dime in compensation from the dog bite. Every year a number of people, mostly children, are mauled by dogs. If you are bit by a dog, it is possible to win a personal injury judgment against the owner of the dog that bit you.

Arkansas is not a strict liability state. In other words, you must prove fault on the part of the dog owner. This usually means you must prove that the dog had “dangerous propensities” or “vicious propensities.” Some breeds of dogs are known to have these propensities and the claims against owners of those types of dogs are easier to prove. Otherwise, the bite victim will need to prove that the dog was likely to bite and that the owner or custodian failed to take appropriate precautions to likely prevent injury.

Even if you prove liability for the bite, the victim still has to prove the actual amount of damages. By investigating the background of the dog and its owner or custodian, the value of the claim can likely be increased.

Proving Fault

Proof that the dog was dangerous (and that the owner knew or should have known about it) includes the following potential facts:

  • The dog was kept for protection (and thus was expected to attack strangers under certain circumstances),
  • The dog had a history of aggressive behavior, including fighting with other animals,
  • The dog was often chained up or muzzled (to prove that the owner considered the dog dangerous),
  • The owner warned others about the dog B either verbally of with a “Beware of Dog” sign,
  • The dog’s breed is known for its aggressiveness.

Proving one or more of the foregoing factors does not guarantee victory, for a court will look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether or not a dog had dangerous propensities that the owner should have known about.

Stray Dogs

If you are bitten by a stray dog, you obviously cannot assert a claim against a non‑existent owner. But, you can still file a claim on your own liability insurance policy for medical payments.

Possible Defenses

A dog owner might assert one of several possible defenses in a dog bite lawsuit, including:

  • Provocation: The dog was provoked into biting by the victim or by a third party.
  • Reasonable care: The owner undertook reasonable safety precautions in light of the dog’s known propensities (such as leashing), and therefore should not be held liable for the injury.
  • Contributory negligence (assumption of risk): The victim removed a dog’s muzzle, for example, or otherwise acted carelessly.
  • Trespassing: The victim was trespassing on the owner’s property at the time of the dog bite (this might also be characterized as a form of provocation).

If you have suffered a dog bite that you believe someone else may be responsible for, call Rainwater Holt & Sexton.

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