The benefits of owning a dog are often explained in depth by researchers, friends, and family. Some studies indicate that having a canine companion is linked to a longer and healthier life. Many people in Alabama may have taken these ideas to heart. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, Alabama is 7th in the country for dog ownership. Of Alabama households, 44.1 percent own at least one dog.
While a dog can certainly be your best friend, there are also situations in which these pets can become dangerous. Some are aggressive, unpredictable, or even trained to fight. These factors can cause a dog to attack you or a loved one.
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If you were injured in a dog attack, do not hesitate to contact our Alabama dog bite lawyers. At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., an attorney will review the laws and local ordinances applicable to your situation and help determine whether the dog’s owner or handler violated any of those rules.
If a dog attacked you or a loved one, you might be suffering from:
At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., we know that dog bites are not always a minor nip. If you were attacked by a dog, you may have suffered multiple bites. The dog may have torn the skin, muscle, ligaments, and/or tendons. Depending on where the dog bit you and the severity of the bite, you may have disfiguring scars. You may have permanent limitations, such as nerve damage and reduced mobility.
To discuss the value of your physical, psychological, and financial injuries, call an Alabama dog bite injury lawyer as soon as you can. We will work with your physicians to determine the value of your injuries and the amount of compensatory damages you can seek.
Torts are wrongful acts, other than a breach of contract, that result in you suffering a loss. Negligence is a type of tort, and it often results in a personal injury or wrongful death claim. When you are injured in a dog attack that was the result of a dog owner or handler’s negligence, then Alabama’s tort principles apply to your situation.
If you wish to sue the dog’s owner or handler based on negligence, you must prove that the individual acted in a way that a reasonably prudent person would not in a similar situation. Or, you must prove the dog owner failed to do something a reasonably prudent person would do in a similar situation. In relation to a dog bite case, it could be that the dog owner failed to keep the dog in their yard or took an aggressive dog to a crowded park. Whether or not the dog owner or handler was negligent is determined on a case-by-case basis in Alabama. A judge will review the dog’s history, the owner’s history with owning and controlling pets, and the circumstances surrounding the attack.
You may also have a claim if you believe the dog owner or handler was not just negligent, but they were reckless. In Alabama, this is also known as wantonness and is defined as a person’s conscious act or failure to act with a reckless or conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others, and the person knows their actions are likely to cause harm.
If you have questions about the torts applicable to your case, call the Alabama dog bite attorneys at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. today for help.
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Alabama has a number of laws that relate to dog attacks and dog bites:
If any dog, without provocation, bites or injures an individual, who at the time had a right to be where they were, then the dog’s owner shall be liable for the bitten individual’s damages. However, there is a limitation to this law. A dog’s owner is only liable if the individual was on the owner’s property at the time of the bite or immediately prior to the attack, and the dog followed the individual off the property. Per AL Code §3-6-2, a person is lawfully on the dog owner’s property if they are there due to the laws of the U.S., are reading meters, delivering milk, making repairs to public utilities, or are on the property through an express or implied invitation of the owner or tenant of the property.
Under this law, if anyone owns or keeps a dangerous animal of any kind and as the result of that person’s careless management of the animal, another individual is injured, then the animal’s owner is liable. Whether or not an animal is vicious or dangerous is not based entirely on the breed of dog, though this is considered. A judge will also look into the animal’s history to see if there is a record of any previous attacks, bites, or aggressive behavior. At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., we utilize vet records, neighbor’s experiences, witness testimony, and expert witnesses to prove certain animals are vicious.
This law states that owners or keepers of dogs should confine them dogs to their own premises or the premises where the dogs are regularly kept. This means that typically, a person’s dog should be in some way confined to their yard. If a dog’s owner or keeper violates this law, they are guilty of a misdemeanor.
Under Alabama laws, if you are injured by a dog bite, there are many ways to hold the dog owner or keep responsible. Whether or not the owner was negligent, they may be responsible under the Mailman Law, Leash Law, or Vicious Animal Law. To discuss the best way to prove your case, you should speak with a dog bite injury attorney right away.
When it comes to your case, it is not just state law and legal principles that will be relevant. Many counties and cities have their own ordinances in regard to dogs and other animals. For example, many municipalities require dogs to be confined to their owner or handler’s property, and require dogs to be on leashes when out in public. Your county may also have a vicious dog law, which dictates when dogs are considered vicious and dangerous.
If you are unsure of your municipality’s ordinances related to dogs, or whether any of the ordinances impact your dog bite claim, you should talk with an Alabama dog bite attorney. At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., we will thoroughly investigate your case, analyze the relevant law, and explain your legal options.
If you were injured in a dog attack and the dog’s owner or handler is at fault, let a dog bite lawyer from Belt, Bruner & Barnett fight for you to receive compensation for your:
The details of each dog attack may lend itself to the need for specific evidence relevant to the facts of each case. There are common forms of evidence sought once a lawsuit is filed. As with any personal injury lawsuit, the dog bite lawyers at Belt, Bruner & Barnett will file discovery requests to the dog owner seeking multiple categories of information about the dog and its history. Other requests to the dog owner may discover home surveillance footage that captured the attack on video. In every case, our discovery requests also seek the identity and policy limits of all potential insurance that may provide coverage to the dog owner or other responsible party.
However, discovery is not limited to the dog owners’ testimony. Our lawyers also seek information and documents from individuals, businesses, and government agencies who are not parties to the lawsuit. For instance, our lawyers routinely file subpoenas to every veterinarian who has ever treated the dog. This includes any veterinarian involved in the post-attack quarantine process. If the dog has previously attacked someone or shown signs of aggression in the past, those instances are often noted in the vet files. Records from dog trainers, obedience schools, and boarding kennels are obtained and reviewed for similar information.
If law enforcement investigated the incident, our dog attack lawyers will issue subpoenas for the police or sheriff’s file and, if available, request body camera footage from the officer’s investigation. In previous cases, this had led to video recordings of the dog acting aggressively towards officers within minutes or hours after the offending attack occurred. Likewise, health department records associated with any post-attack quarantines may also shed light on relevant information.
In addition to documents, the dog owner and/or any other defendant bearing responsibility will be required to provide under-oath testimony at a deposition. This allows our dog injury lawyers to examine the individual about any of the documents received from outside businesses, individuals, or government agencies, as well obtain additional detail about the dog, its history, and the circumstances leading up to the attack.
The dog owner’s homeowner insurance is often the source of insurance coverage applicable to a dog bite case. If the dog owner rents their residence instead of owning a home, they may be required by their landlord to carry renter’s insurance. These policies often provide liability coverage that applies to dog attacks. Of course, if a party that does not own the dog has liability for the attack, such as a negligent landlord or business who allows a vicious dog to be harbored on their property, commercial general liability policies may apply to the claim and provide coverage for the various damages caused by the attack.
It is not uncommon for a dog bite victim to lack information about potential liability insurance coverage applicable to their case. Unlike car wreck reports, incident reports generated after a dog attack rarely include insurance information. When this information is not included on the report, the injured person is usually left in the dark about potential insurance coverage unless the dog owner volunteers the information. Unsurprisingly, this rarely happens. This is why our dog bite injury attorneys often suggest that a lawsuit be immediately filed. Once a lawsuit is served on the dog owner, he or she must report the lawsuit to their insurance company.
Once reported and coverage is confirmed, the applicable insurance company will provide a lawyer to defend the claim. Our lawyers are experienced in all insurance matters regarding dog attacks and provide legal guidance on the best strategies for your dog bite case during both the pre-lawsuit stage and the litigation phase.
Local law enforcement is often contacted immediately following a dog attack. Alabama law requires the local law enforcement officer or health officer to require the dog be placed in a 10-day quarantine period if the victim sustained a break in the skin during the attack. Obviously, the most common example of potential rabies exposure occurs after a dog bite. However, it is possible for rabes to be transmitted if a dog scratches someone and that scratch results in a break in the skin.
While home quarantine may be allowed if certain circumstances exist, most state-imposed quarantines occur at a licensed veterinarian’s office. If the dog shows no signs or symptoms of rabies at the end of the 10-day quarantine period, it may be released back to the owner. Currently, no reliable methods exist to test a dog for rabies unless the dog is euthanized. The specific requirements for the quarantine process following a dog attack can be found at Ala. Code § 3-7A-9.
Even if the violent dog shows no signs of rabies during the quarantine process, dog owners may elect to have the animal euthanized. If that occurs, post-mortem rabies testing can conclusively determine if the dog was rabid at the time of the attack. Of course, owners of dogs who viciously attack or bite someone may also elect to euthanize the animal as a method of preventing future attacks. Failure to take reasonable steps after actual knowledge of a violent dog attack may render the dog owner liable to significant punitive damages if another attack occurs.
If you are attacked by a dog and concerned that you may have been exposed to rabies, seek medical attention immediately. Your medical provider can determine whether you should undergo rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. Regardless of the nature of your medical treatment, you can claim the expenses for your medical care as part of the damages you seek against the dog owner’s insurance company.
Choosing an attorney for your case can be difficult. You want to work with someone who understands you and your family, and someone who will fight for you to receive the compensation you deserve. Our Alabama dog bite lawyers have years of experience handling dog attack cases, including those related to feared breeds and typically non-violent types of dogs. We have worked with individuals who were harmed by small-to-medium sized dogs, and others who were bitten by large, strong breeds.
We have also handled cases resulting in moderate injuries as well as those involving significant and permanent harm. Overall, we have fought to obtain more than $11 million in settlements and jury verdicts for our clients. While we cannot guarantee a particular outcome to your case or a specific amount of compensation, we have obtained sizable awards for our clients, and we are prepared to help you fight for the compensation you are entitled to under the law.
If you were injured by a dog or any other type of animal, your first step should be seeking medical attention. You may need stitches, an updated tetanus shot, or preventative antibiotics. If your injuries are more severe, do not hesitate to go to an emergency room. Once you are safe and have been cared for, then contact our experienced and skilled Alabama dog bite lawyers. At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., we want to help you hold the dog owner responsible for their dangerous animal and obtain the compensation you need to cover your injuries and expenses.