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Alabama Law on Dog Attacks

Published: Dec 26, 2016 in Personal Injury, Premises Liability

Under Alabama law, an owner of a dog can be held liable for injuries to another person. Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, a dog attack victim may be able to recover compensation for his or her injuries under Alabama’s dog attack statute, common law negligence, or premises liability.

It would probably surprise most people to know that instead of the popular image of an anonymous, rabid beast chasing you down the street, the majority of dog-bite injuries occur in homes and involve familiar dogs. In the United States, there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites each year and children are among the most common victims. Dog attacks can result in serious injuries, illness from infection, and even death in the most severe cases.

Statutory Liability for Dog Attacks

Under Section 3-6-1 of the Code of Alabama, a dog owner can be held liable for injuries to another person if a dog, without provocation, bites or injures another person while on the owner’s property, or property controlled by the owner, and the person had a legal right to be there.

The statute does not allow liability to be imposed on a dog owner when the attack occurs on public property. However, a dog owner can be held liable if their dog pursued the victim of the dog owner’s property and subsequently injured the person.

Under Section 3-6-3, dog owners that can prove that they had no knowledge of any circumstances indicating the dog in question to be or to have been vicious or dangerous, or mischievous can only be held liable for the actual expenses incurred as a result of the bite or injury.

Common Law Negligence

When 3-6-1 does not apply, plaintiffs may be able to recover damages sustained in a dog attack if they are able to prove scienter, which means that the dog owner knew or had reason to know of the dog’s dangerous propensities and is sometimes referred to as the “One Bite” rule.

In 1992, the Alabama Supreme Court held that “an owner of an animal will be charged with knowledge of the propensities of the breed of animal he or she owns,” meaning that a plaintiff can prove scienter based on the owner’s knowledge of the attacking dog’s breed propensity. In that case, the plaintiff was able to establish liability because of the owner’s knowledge that the attacking dog was a pit bull.

Another avenue for proving negligence is if the owner violated a pet-related statute, such as having their dog on a leash. This is known as negligence per se and can form the basis of liability.

Premises Liability

If a person is injured by a dog while on someone else’s property, the injured individual may be able to recover compensation for any losses under a theory of premises liability. Alabama premises liability law imposes a duty on property owners to ensure their property is reasonably safe for visitors or to provide an adequate warning of any risks.

Property owners, be it individuals or business owners, who fail to properly maintain their premises, can be held liable for personal injuries that result from unsafe conditions. In dog bite cases, the unsafe condition on the premises is the presence of a dog with dangerous propensities, of which the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

  • Disfigurement
  • Illness such as MRSA, Tetanus, Capnocytophaga spp, Rabies, and Pasteurella
  • Nerve damage
  • Puncture wound
  • Facial scarring
  • Muscle or ligament tears
  • PTSD

How an Alabama Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help

If you have been bitten or injured in a dog attack, call the Birmingham dog bite lawyers at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. right away to discuss your options. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling dog attack cases and can explain the nuances of Alabama dog bite laws, help you determine the best course of action, and fight for what you deserve.

With offices in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, and Montgomery, our dog bite injury lawyers will quickly travel to investigate the details of your case and may be able to help you obtain compensation for your damages. Contact us today at (205) 933-1500 for a free consultation.