Every year, thousands of Americans are bitten by animals -- most often dogs. In many cases, a person bitten or attacked by a dog may have a legal right to recover damages from the animal's owner or another responsible party.
If A Dog Bites or Attacks You
If you are bitten, chased, or attacked by a dog, contact the appropriate authorities and seek medical attention immediately. If you are not treated, a dog bite can cause serious injury, infection, and even death if the animal is diseased. Once you have been medically evaluated, you should also consider consulting a lawyer with experience in animal bite cases to determine if you have a legal claim, and what damages you may be able to recover.
In Delaware, an owner of a dog is legally responsible ("liable") if their dog attacks or bites someone. Even if the owner had no reason to know that his or her dog was dangerous, the owner is still liable. There are limited exceptions to this rule of strict liability such as if the victim was teasing or tormenting the dog.
Other Potential Responsible Parties
Dog owners are not the only people who can be held responsible. Here are a few common scenarios where someone other than the dogs owner could be held liable for an animal bite:
- Animal Keepers: Anyone who is responsible for the care or custody of an dog may be considered an owner or keeper and can be held responsible for an attack or bite. Examples include kennels, a pound, or an animal sitter.
- Parents of Minors: Even if a person under 18 years of age owns the dog at issue, an injured person can bring a legal claim against the minor's parents, even if the parents had no direct involvement with the animal.
- Property Owners: A property owner can be liable for injuries caused by an dog that the property owner allowed onto his or her property.
- Landlords: If an apartment landlord knew (or should have known) that a tenant owned a dangerous dog, the landlord may also be liable for dog injuries.
What Damages Can You Recover?
Depending on the seriousness of injuries resulting from a dog bite or attack, you may be entitled to recover for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
In some instances, you may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are awarded to punish someone for his or her behavior. To justify an award of punitive damages, the wrongdoer's conduct usually must be more than negligent, such as reckless or intentional conduct. For example, if a dog owner knew his dog was very dangerous, yet repeatedly allowed the dog to run free near a school, and the dog eventually attacked a child, a jury could conclude that punitive damages were appropriate.
Bitten or Attacked by a Dog?
If a dog has bitten or attacked you or a loved one, you may be entitled to recover damages for any injuries that resulted. Determining your legal rights can be complicated, and it may be unclear who to bring a claim against, and to what sort of damages you are entitled. To help ensure that you receive just compensation, you should consider contacting the Personal Injury Group of Morris James LLP.