Even the sweetest and most cherished doggy can revert to its feral nature in a quick flash. Of course some dogs will go their entire lives without even a little snap, play-bite or puncture wound of the human flesh. There are roughly 78 million dogs in the United States and only about 1,000 individuals need medical treatment daily due to dog bites. That’s not bad considering dogs are merely domesticated wolves. But domestic dogs are statistically the deadliest of the large carnivores in the United States. They have killed more people than bears, alligators, sharks and pumas combined.
Dogs bite for lots of reasons including when frightened, in pain, teased, tormented, provoked, abused or to protect their owner or territory. It’s not surprising that dogs bite, but oftentimes it is surprising when they bite. Humans think they know dogs, but dogs cannot speak and tell you what they are feeling and what they’re going to do. When a dog bites, is it the fault of the dog, owner or the person who was bitten? In most cities a dog is required to get yearly vaccinations, be under control when not in a house or fenced yard and have a leash when off the property. Is it the dog’s responsibility to fulfill these requirements? Absolutely not. It’s the owners responsibility. The responsibility or burden of keeping a dog from biting someone first and foremost falls to the owner.
Dogs owners have a legal responsibility to prevent their dogs from harming anyone and damaging property. Here are some important points in this regard:
- If a dog injures someone, the dog’s owner may have to compensate the injured individual for time off work, pain/suffering, medical costs and other costs resulting from the injury. Criminal charges against the dog’s owner are very rare but possible in certain circumstances.
- Liability insurance carried by the dog’s owner could possibly cover the losses incurred by the injured individual, even if the incident happened off the owner’s property.
- After a dog bite occurs, it’s important for the injured individual as well as the dog owner to contact an attorney in order to begin the process to protect their legal rights.
A Dog owner could be held liable through a civil lawsuit after a dog bite or another kind of injury caused by the animal if one or more of the following applies:
- The dog has a history of aggressive behavior or has exhibited dangerous tendencies and the owner knows this to be true. This could include, previous bites, knocking people down, chasing people and snapping at them. In this case the owner must carefully oversee the dog’s behavior and take extra steps to prevent harm to people.
- The injured person can prove that the harm was done due to the dog owner’s unreasonable carelessness. Examples include leaving a gate open or allowing the dog to run around without a leash. In Alabama dogs are not allowed to run loose. Owners must keep their dogs on a leash, in a fence, or otherwise controlled at all times. If a dog attacks someone off the owner’s property then the owner did not likely have control of the dog at the time. This argument is one of the most frequently used in dog bite liability cases in Alabama.
- The dog bites someone that is legally on the owner’s property. This is sometimes referred to as “the mailman law.” If someone visits a property for legal reasons, the owner must protect that individual from unreasonable harm. This includes keeping their dog controlled or under control. If a dog bites someone with a legal right to be on the property, then the owner is responsible under Alabama’s state’s premises liability laws. This applies regardless of whether the dog has a history of violence and biting. It also applies if the dog chases the person away from the property and then attacks them. This type of case is usually applied when dealing with postal/delivery workers, utility workers and guests invited onto the property.
In Alabama, the dog’s owner is liable for their pet’s bad behavior as long as the animal was not provoked. Working with an Alabama personal injury lawyer can help you develop a case and pursue the compensation that you are legally entitled. It’s best to consult with an Alabama injury attorney in order to know your options and the grounds that could support your dog bite/injury case.