Animal Attack Injury and Law

Animal attacks and bites are, unfortunately, quite common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and 885,000 of those injuries require medical attention. The most common animal attack are dog bites, and they can leave a person injured for an extended amount of time—sometimes even permanently. Victims often face huge medical bills and lost wages, of which the owner of the animal is usually liable. Liability can be a tricky thing, though, depending on what state you live in.

Animal Attack Liability and Insurance

Liability for a domestic animal attack often depend on whether or not the owner knew if the animal had a propensity for violence (such as if prior claims had been brought against the animal). In some states, the owner is held liable regardless. Insurance companies often negotiate settlements, which means a dog owner might not be forced to pay medical or legal bills out of pocket.

An animal owner’s homeowner’s insurance will cover liability for injuries caused by domestic animals. This generally only works for the first incident. There are also many insurance companies which refuse to cover specific breeds of dogs, such as Pit Bulls or Rottweilers, which are considered to have a greater tendency of being dangerous (whether that’s true or not). Some homeowners’ insurance policies reduce or negate coverage for an animal attack that happens away from the homeowner’s property. If a bite occurs in a car, for instance, an owner’s automobile insurance will often pay for damages.

There are also companies which provide specialty animal insurance. Because of the “first incident” clause of many insurance companies, the owner of a “repeat offender” pet usually must seek this specialized animal insurance.

“Dog-Bite Laws”

In most states, “dog-bite laws” have been enacted to protect injured parties from an animal attack. These laws usually impose “strict liability” on dog owners. Under “strict liability,” the injured person only needs to prove that the dog bit him or her. However, if a state does not have these laws, an injured person has the burden of proving that the dog owner knew his/her dog was dangerous. The injured person could be negated damages if the owner shows that the injured person provoked the animal attack. This is true even under the “dog-bite laws.”

For other types of animal attack injuries, like horse kicks or cat scratches, the standard rules of negligence still apply. This is true even if specific states don’t have specific laws attributed to them. If a horse or cat owner knew that their animal had violent tendencies, they will be held liable. This doesn’t apply if they can prove the injured person “assumed the risk,” provoked the animal attack, or was negligent.

It’s important to have good legal representation if you’ve sustained great bodily injury as a result of an animal attack. A good attorney will help determine the best course of action for your specific case.


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