Once Bitten Twice Shy: When Pets Bite You

Dog bitesWe all love our pets. We consider them an integral part of the family. They can be the most loving creature to provide us some company, happiness and unconditional love. But what happens when they do harm to others?  When your dog bites someone, are you liable?

According to a dog bite statistics in the US, more than four and a half million people are bitten by dogs every year and one fifth of those incidents are serious enough to require medical attention. Most of the victims are children under the age of 12. Young children do not understand dog behaviour which is why they are the most common victims of dog attacks. In fact, a dog bite is the fifth most frequent cause of visits to emergency rooms that is common among children.

As a dog owner, what are the legal consequences that you’ll be facing when your dog bites? Is it time to get in the insurance lawyers when Fido bites Jane?

When a dog bites a person, the dog’s owner can potentially face a number of legal consequences. He may be required to pay the victims for all associated damages and losses incurred as a result. When a dog causes serious personal injury or the death of another person, the dog can be quarantined and may be euthanised or put to sleep upon an order of a judge.

A dog owner who is legally accountable for an injury to a person or property may be liable to indemnify the injured person for:

  • Medical Bills – include bills for doctors (counting specialists such as plastic surgeons), hospital services, medication and physical therapy.
  • Pain and Suffering -mainly for the emotional stress and suffering the injured person undergoes because of the dog bite attack.
  • Lost Income – The dog owner is obliged to compensate the injured person for any lost income, including a loss in earning capacity if the injury impaired the person’s ability to work due to the attack.

A dog owner may not be legally responsible if the person bitten was:

  • Intentionally or unintentionally provoking the dog (hit or teased the dog, accidentally stepped on the dog’s tail, approached the dog while it’s eating or sleeping, or screamed or run from the dog)
  • Knowingly and voluntarily taking the risk of being injured by the dog
  • Trespassing
  • Breaking the law

Any dog has the capacity to bite and they bite for a number of reasons.  As long as the owner knows and understands the common reasons why they do, the owner may be able to prevent attacks and save himself from the legal ramifications of a dog bite.