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How culpable are you when your dog bites?

A dog owner's worst nightmare is when an otherwise trustworthy pet lunges at someone. Whether it was a single bite or a vicious attack, authorities may now consider your dog dangerous, and it is likely you will be facing the consequences of the incident. Dog bites are painful, may require extensive medical treatment and can leave disfiguring scars. Your homeowner's insurance may cover part of these costs, but maybe you feel like the attack wasn't entirely your dog's fault.

Breed is not always an accurate indicator

The breed of your dog may be a factor. If the dog is a breed that many consider to be dangerous, such as a pit bull, you may have a more difficult time defending yourself. Despite the fact that many individual dogs of dangerous breeding are quite docile and harmless, the court may assume you knew of the animal's propensity for attack simply because of its breed. If the victim of the bite brings a case against you, you may be liable for the following:

  • Medical bills the victim incurred related to the attack
  • Lost wages if the victim was unable to work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damage to any of the victim's property during the attack

You may also face punitive damages if the victim proves you were reckless in allowing the dog to run free or if you knew the dog was especially dangerous.

Strict liability

If you took adequate measures to protect people from your dog and warned the victim that the dog may bite, this may be an adequate defense. You may have kept the dog behind a fence and posted warning signs. The victim may have assumed the risk by coming onto your property uninvited or provoking the dog in some way.

Defending yourself against a premises liability lawsuit following a dog bite is a complicated endeavor. In Louisiana, as in many states, dog owners are strictly liable for the behavior of their animals, and the law requires them to do whatever they can to prevent their dogs from causing harm. An attorney will be able to advise you on the best way to defend yourself in this matter. With strong representation from an experienced lawyer, you will have a better chance of a more positive outcome for you and your dog.

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