If you are a victim of a dog bite or other animal attack, you may be able to recover damages from your injury. If you are the owner of a dog or other animal, it is important to know your responsibilities in the event it does attack someone else.

What Is the Liability for Animal Attacks?

  • Standard rules of negligence create liability for an animal owner who had a reasonable duty to keep the victim safe from the attack of his animal.
  • Many states also have dog-bite laws that may create strict liability for dog owners. Strict liability means that the dog owner will be liable, regardless of the fault of the victim.
  • Some states also have laws that create strict liability for people who keep wild animals (as opposed to domesticated animals). For example if a person owned a tiger in an apartment in a city, and the tiger attacked a visitor, in a state that created strict liability for wild animal attacks, the owner would be liable, regardless of the fault of the victim.

What Should the Victims of a Dog Bites or Animal Attacks Do?

The time period immediately following a dog bite or animal attack may be very stressful and confusing about what to do. To preserve you claim against the owner of the dog, try to do the following: 

  • Identify the animal that bit you.  If the animal isn’t caught and tested, you may be subject to a very painful series of rabies vaccinations
  • Get the name, address, and telephone number of the person who own the animal
  • Get the name, address, and telephone numbers of all people who witnessed the attack
  • Get medical attention.  Keep track of your medical bills and treatments
  • Photograph the wounds if possible
  • Don’t sign anything until you’re had the chance to discuss your matter with a lawyer
  • Compile a list of people who might be able to testify to the animal’s propensity for aggressiveness (neighbors, friends, etc.)

What Are the Possible Recoveries for Victims of Dog Bites or Animal Attacks?

Victims of dog bites or other animal attacks may be able to recover for: 

  • Medical treatments and medications
  • Future medical treatment
  • Psychological counseling
  • Loss of work earnings
  • Punitive damages

Can I Purchase Insurance to Protect against a Dog Bite or Animal Attack Liability?

Homeowners insurance and car insurance often cover animal attacks, so even if you don’t think the owner of the animal can afford to compensate you for your loss, it is possible that you could still receive compensation through their insurance coverage.

As the Victim of an Animal Attack, Should You Hire a Lawyer?

If you or a loved one are a victim of a dog bite or other animal attack, you should speak to a lawyer immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. A lawyer will be able to explain the value of your case and help you navigate through the complicated legal process. Most lawyers who handle these types of personal injury matters work on a contingency basis.

What Is the Animal Owner’s Legal Responsibility for A Dog Attack?

An animal owner may be legally responsible for the attacks of their dog or other pet. To protect themselves against liability, the animal owners should: 

  • Get Insurance: if you own a dog or other potentially dangerous animal, be sure to have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Check your policies. Some insurance companies do not cover animals or certain breeds of dogs.
  • Become familiar with your state, city and community ordinances on dog ownership.
  • Some states have "strict liability" statutes, which mean that if your animal attacks or bites someone, you are legally responsible by virtue of your ownership of that animal.
  • Other states require proof that the animal had a "propensity for violence" and that you knew or should have known about this animal’s behavior before you become liable.
  • Some statutes make special rules for pit bulls, rottweilers, chows, akitas or other similarly aggressive breeds.

How Can Animal Owner Liability Be Mitigated?

The liability of the owner may be mitigated if: 

  • The injured person provoked the attack, or assumed the risk of being attacked.
  • The owner provided adequate warning about the animal.
  • The attack was not foreseeable. For example, if a dog, bites a child after the child ignored a warning sign and climbed over a fence into the dog’s yard, the owner will probably not be completely liable because they made an effort to keep people out with the fence and the warning.   Note that in addition to the animal owner, a landlord or property owners who should have known about the dangerous animal may also be liable.

What to Do If Your Animal Bites or Attacks Someone?

  • Stay calm and be as nice and accommodating as possible
  • Make sure that the victim gets medical attention
  • Get the names, numbers and phone numbers of witnesses
  • Avoid making any statements about the situation
  • Locate and preserve your animals medical records including proof of rabies shots

What Can you Do If Your Dog or Other Animal Attacks Someone?

If your dog or other animal attacks someone, and you believe you will be sued for the victim’s injuries, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system.