Dog Bites

Lumberton and Robeson County, North Carolina, has inadequate animal control. Dog bite cases are prevalent here and vicious dogs are more numerous due to an element of the population involved in dog fighting. Moreover, the population is too often poor and unable or unwilling to obtain proper vaccinations even for such deadly diseases as rabies which can kill a human being. Dogs frequently attack family pets and often humans.

I once represented an off-duty law enforcement officer in a motorcycle wreck caused by a dog that threw its body into the spokes of the motorcycle while chasing and barking at the bike. The officer was thrown from the bike and endured serious and permanent injury.

If the dog is a stray, legal action is unlikely since the owner of the dog cannot be ascertained. However, if the animal is kept by an individual on his home or business property and there is proper liability insurance on that property, a lawsuit will be likely fruitful provided one can prove negligence on the part of the owner of the dog. First, one would have to prove that the dog had shown aggressive and violent tendencies in the past. This would not necessarily require that the dog had previously bitten another animal or a human. One would at least have to show that the dog had exhibited malicious enough behavior that a reasonable person could conclude that he was likely to bite someone. Next, one would have to prove that the owner of the dog knew or should have known about these dangerous proclivities and elected not to keep the dog properly confined or restrained. Sometime cases allow some inference of dangerous tendencies merely because of the breed of the dog. Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Dobermans often are suggested to be dangerous to humans and other animals by nature.

So long as all of the circumstances would lead a reasonable person to foresee that an animal or human would probably be bitten, the jury can fine for the Plaintiff. If the dog’s behavior was truly malicious and if he had demonstrated that malice in the past, most juries will have no trouble returning a verdict of liability and damages, and if there is homeowner’s insurance, there will usually be sufficient coverage to cover medical bills, doctor’s fees, lost wages, short and long term disability, future medical expenses, pharmacy expenses both present and future, scars and disfigurements, and any property damage that directly resulted from the dog bite.

The incident must immediately be reported to animal control. When a dog bite victim presents at the emergency room or one of the urgent care clinics or at a doctor’s office, medical personnel are aware of the law to report the matter immediately to animal control and to local police. The dog will be quarantined and impounded, checked for disease so that proper treatment can be give to the victim, and depending on the circumstances the animal may be euthanized.

If you are bitten by a dog, notify the property owner immediately and request that he/she contact his insurance carrier to report the claim. Do not give a telephone interview. Do not speak to an adjuster. Do not speak of the facts with the owner of the animal. Get immediate medical attention. Follow all of your doctor’s orders and take any medicine prescribed immediately. As soon as your medical situation is stable, give us a call. We offer a free consultation. If we need to visit you at home or in the hospital, we will come immediately.

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