You have seriously been bitten by a dog and now you want to be compensated for your injuries. Who do you hold liable? How do you even assess liability? Two dog bite injuries can never be the same. Dog bite injuries are either minor or major and the answer as to who is liable may be straight forward or complex. Liability is not always easy to determine which is why it is good to talk to an experienced dog bite injury lawyer as soon as you get medical help.
There are certain factors that need to be considered when assessing liability in a dog bite injury case but first let me explain the dog bite law in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island Is A Strict Liability State
If a dog bites you outside the dog owner’s property or if the dog has a record of biting people and/or other animals, you could be compensated double for the damages. If the dog was with a keeper and not the owner, the keeper will be responsible for the damages.
However, if the dog attacks you within the dog owner’s property, the strict liability law does not apply; instead, the common law liability applies.
The Vicious Dog Statute
In Rhode Island for example, there is a vicious dog statute where a dog is not considered vicious if it attacked you while you were trespassing or assaulting, teasing, provoking, torturing or abusing the dog. If the dog was also defending its owner or another person from an unjustified attack the vicious dog statute will protect the owner and you won’t get compensation.
What Defines A Vicious Dog?
This is a dog that:
- Approaches any person in public with the intent to attack yet it wasn’t provoked in any manner
- Is known to endanger the safety of people as well as other animals
- Attacks a person or animal without being provoked
- Is owned for the purpose of fighting or trained to fight.
What Responsibilities Do Owners Of Vicious Dogs Have?
Vicious dog owners are legally obligated to:
- Display a warning sign on their property warning that there is a vicious dog on the property. The sign should be placed where everyone can clearly see it.
- Register the dog and have its registration identification number tattooed on its upper inner left rear thigh.
- Maintain liability insurance of no less than $100, 000 to cover any injuries caused by the dog.
- Inform a dog officer or the police within two hours if the dog escaped, attacked another person or animal or died.
- Neuter or spay the dog unless a qualified and licensed vet says that the process might endanger the health of the dog.
- Pay $1000 fine if the kills or injures a person when unprovoked. This is in addition to the civil liability suit.
If you own a vicious dog you are not allowed to give it away, sell it or leave it with someone under the age of 16. If the owner of the vicious dog is a minor, the child’s guardian or parent will be responsible for any injuries that result if the dog attacks and injures a person unprovoked. Some of the most dangerous dog breeds include:
- German Shepherd
- Alaskan Malamute
- Great Danes
- Wolf mixes
Insurance Coverage For Vicious Dogs
Many homeowner insurance policies do not cover vicious dog breeds in order to stop the hemorrhaging of court verdicts and insurance settlements. Some insurance policies restrict coverage based on the dog’s history of attacks on others. Others refuse to provide cover unless the dog owner takes steps to ensure safety measures are put in place.
Some insurance companies will accept the first claim for a dog bite injury but will not pay any future claims if the dog attacks again without provocation.
Is There A Statute Of Limitations?
There is a time frame within which you must report a dog bite injury. When this time frame expires and you have not reported your dog bite injury, you will not be compensated and you cannot hold anyone liable for your injuries.
In Rhode Island if you file a dog bite injury lawsuit after three years, the judge will throw your case out without a hearing. If you want to have your day in court, you have to file your lawsuit before the deadline passes.
What If Your Child Is Attacked
Children less than 12 years of age constitute 50% of dog bite victims. Most of the children that visit the emergency room are victims of dog bites. As a matter of fact, the number of children getting treated for dog bite injuries is higher than that of burns, fractures and domestic violence.
Did you know that nearly half of all the dog bites to children happen in the family home or just within the neighborhood? Dog bites can leave a child disfigured, requiring plastic surgery. Additionally, the child may suffer mental trauma and in some severe cases, death. Most dog bites are to a child’s neck or head.
Damages For Dog Bite Injuries On Children
Damages for adult victims are very different from damages for children. A child may have a tougher time coping with a dog bite injury unlike an adult. A dog bite might cause scarring on a prominent part of the child’s body such as the face, arm or neck.
The scar may last a lifetime and subject the child to endless ridicule from classmates and friends. As a result, the child might grow up having low self esteem and forming poor social relationships. This explains why children that suffer dog bite injuries require mental health counseling. They may also have to take some medications and go through a series of painful shots with side effects.
The court can also decide to assess punitive damages against a negligent dog owner. If you decide to take your case to trial and the jury decides that the owner is guilty of gross negligence with disregard to the safety of other people, the court may award damages in an amount higher than the damages proved during trial.
Punitive damages can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the dog owner’s negligence and circumstances under which the attack occurred. This is especially true if the company that owns the dog responsible for the vicious attack owns substantial assets.
Factors That Should Be Considered When Assessing Liability
- Type Of Dog
The type of dog that bit you matters a lot. Any dog can bite you but some dog breeds are recognized as more dangerous than others. If you are attacked by a dog that is recognized as dangerous then proving liability might be easier.
- Was The Dog Secured?
In Rhode Island, dog owners are required to secure their dog by a fence or leash. If the dog that bit you was not secured at the time of the attack, you could hold the dog owner liable for your injuries. All dog owners are required to follow a law that prohibits a dog from running loose.
- How Did The Dog Bite Happen?
What actually led to the dog biting you? In a scenario where you get bit by a roaming dog in the street is very different from one where you get bit by a dog because you provoked it or because it was defending itself or the owner.
It’s very important that you know where the bite happened and under what circumstances. More importantly, does the dog have a history of biting? If the dog has bitten someone before, then the owner will be held liable for your injuries.
Our Role As Dog Bite Injury Attorneys
If you have been a victim of a dog bite attack and you have suffered severe injuries, there’s just too much at stake and you need help proving liability and getting compensation. We can take depositions of witnesses and issue subpoena for surveillance footage, company records or any other evidence that you couldn’t secure on your own.
More importantly we can file a lawsuit. The idea of being served with a lawsuit is enough to make an insurance company settle. Rhode Island has a dangerous dog law and this gives us great leverage in settling your claim for an amount you truly deserve
We do not charge for initial consultations and you are not obligated to have us handle your case after your first visit. We also don’t charge you any fees in advance; we only get paid when you get compensated.