According to the CDC, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States each year. Of those, a staggering 800,000 bites require medical care.
Most of us love dogs. After all, their unconditional love and wagging tails provide us with a form of companionship unlike any other.
However, we often forget that dogs are animals that act on instincts, not logic. While we understand our own dogs, we can’t predict the behavior of strange dogs, and bites do happen.
If you’ve been bitten, you might be wondering whether you should file a dog bite lawsuit. Keep reading to learn more about your legal options after being bitten by a dog.
Understanding Your Options If You Are Bitten or Injured by a Dog
If you are bitten or injured by a dog, no matter how minor or severe the injuries, the owner of the dog is most likely liable for what happened. This means that you have the right to pursue legal action and compensation for your injuries.
However, it ultimately depends on the laws in your state whether the owner of the dog will be held liable for the bite. The best thing you can do for yourself is to hire an attorney who is experienced with dog bite claims.
Your attorney will evaluate your case (usually for free) and advise you as to whether you should pursue a claim or file a lawsuit. Having an experienced attorney on your side will also help you alleviate some of the stress involved with being bitten by a dog.
Know Your Rights
As mentioned before, your rights as a victim of a dog bite depend on the laws in your state. In most states, you can sue the owner of the dog if you suffered harm from their animal.
But there are some exceptions to this, including if you provoked the animal, if you were trespassing on private property when you were bitten, or if you were familiar with the animal and knew that it had a violent tendency or had attacked you or someone else before.
If you can prove that the dog owner is liable for your injuries, your attorney will usually be able to reach an out-of-court settlement, meaning you won’t have to actually go to trial. The amount of settlement you will be offered depends on several factors.
For example, if a child is the victim of a dog bite, they can usually get a higher settlement. That’s because a child, due to their small size and age, is more likely to sustain significant injuries and experience long term emotional trauma.
Criminal charges can also come into play in these types of cases.
Dog Bite Laws in Tennessee
In the State of Tennessee, the law regarding dog bites is defined as part of Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413. The legislation combines strict liability for dog owners as well as the “one-bite” rule.
The specific facts of the situation determine which element will apply. In Tennessee, a dog owner is strictly liable if their dog bites someone and causes injury and the incident took place in a public place or lawfully in a private place.
In these situations, the owner of the dog will be held liable without having to prove the elements of general negligence. The owner does not need to have known whether their dog would act aggressively.
However, there are some exceptions. Strict liability for dog bites only applies when the incident occurs either in public or when the victim had permission to be on a third party’s private property.
If the dog bite occurs on private property that the owner of the dog owns, rents, leases, or occupies, with the owner’s permission, then the “one bite” rule applies. This means that the victim must prove that the dog’s owner either knew or reasonably should have known that their dog would bite someone.
This generally requires the dog to have acted aggressively or bitten someone before. This law gives dogs one strike before the owner will be held liable for the dog’s aggression.
This statute can be complicated and it can be difficult to understand which type of liability will apply to your situation.
Should You File a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
Victims of dog bites often have difficulty deciding whether or not to pursue the dog’s owner to recover their damages. If the dog bite is severe, you have probably incurred significant damages including medical bills, lost wages, and possibly even permanent scarring. In these cases, it’s usually worth pursuing legal action.
If the bite was minor, you still might be able to recover compensation. Dog bite injuries can also cause mental and emotional distress for which you can recover compensation.
Chances are that you won’t have to file a lawsuit to recover your damages. Rather, your attorney will help you pursue a legal claim against the insurance company of the dog’s owner, as most homeowner’s policies cover dog bites.
The majority of dog bite claims settle out of court. Though, you may need to file a lawsuit if you and your attorney can’t reach a reasonable settlement through negotiations with the insurance company.
In this situation, it’s important to have an attorney who is prepared to take your case to trial.
Were You or Your Child Bitten by a Dog?
If you, your child, or loved one were bitten by someone else’s dog, you may be able to recover compensation by pursuing legal action.
Dog bite cases can be complicated but it is possible to win your case. We can help you pursue legal action and file a dog bite lawsuit against the owner of the dog who caused your injuries.
We have years of experience handling claims just like yours and know how to get you the compensation you deserve.
Click here to get started with a free case evaluation. We can help you decide what to do next.