Can You Sue Over a Dog Attack?

List: Posted: 06/21/11

Suffering a dog attack can be a frightening and even permanently scarring experience.  With medical bills and possibly permanent injuries to deal with, it's important to know how to handle the legal aftermath of the dog attack.  Depending on local laws and the specifics of how the dog attacked you, there are many ways to seek restitution for the incident.

 

The first thing you'll need to do is contact a lawyer.  In the case of medical injury, the dog owner may have already been arrested or fined and the dog may have been confiscated.  Often, the arrest will result in penalties being assessed by the city or state, but you are still entitled to further compensation in a civil court, should you seek it.  If you have severe injuries, your medical bills could be extensive, so further compensation might be required. 

 

It is most likely necessary to have the dog in question see a specialist for a behavioral evaluation.  The attack may be an isolated incident, or the dog may be a 'red line' case who is dangerous to others.  Allowing a neutral party to assess the dog's aggression is the best way to find out the facts. 

 

You should also speak with the dog owner's neighbors to find out if its aggression stems from its nature, or a recent bad experience such as an illness or injury.  Even a mild mannered or elderly animal may lash out if hurt or frightened, and for female dogs, a recent birth or forced separation from a litter of puppies can cause random aggression directed towards strangers.

 

Have your lawyer also request an assessment of the dog's daily habitat.  An animal behaviorist or vet may be called in to investigate.  Dogs that are kept in unhealthy surroundings can develop aggressive behavior through no fault of their own. These factors will allow you to seek higher damages if the owner knowingly keeps a highly aggressive animal, or through their own ill treatment have encouraged aggressive behavior.

 

If you are a dog lover, be aware that in most cases where the victim presses charges, the dog will very often be put down, even if it is a family pet with no prior evidence of aggression.  This chance increases if the dog is a known aggressive breed such as a pit-bull, regardless of its history or temperament. 

 

In addition, other 'scary-looking' but non aggressive breeds such as boxers, bulldogs and pit-bull mixtures (mutts) may receive prejudiced treatment due to their looks, and may be euthanized more often than pedigree or 'friendly-looking' animals such as golden retrievers or labs. If you don't want the animal euthanized, despite your own injuries, you may have a hard time convincing authorities otherwise, as once you have made a complaint the decision will most likely be taken out of your hands.

 

Using all of this evidence, you can present your case in civil court and seek damages for the pain and expense of the dog attack.  If you are an animal lover, use your common sense, get the animal assessed, and don't be afraid to work with the owners outside of court if you want to help them save their pet's life and rehabilitate it.

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