Being bitten by a dog is a traumatic experience. Not only do dog bites result in a painful injury, they may also cause you to feel conflicting emotions. Many view dogs as beloved pets and faithful companions. You may feel disappointed you must now associate “man’s best friend” with suffering and distress. You may fear the unknown and ask yourself, Am I at risk for rabies? Who is responsible for my medical bills? Am I entitled to any compensation from the owner?
When you hire an experienced Gulfport dog bite lawyer, you will not have to confront these challenges alone. Smith & Holder, PLLC, can help you understand your options as a victim of a dog bite and compassionately guide you through the personal injury claims process. Contact us today.
What to Do When a Dog Bites
If you or your child suffers a dog bite, the following steps can help prevent further harm and recover your losses.
Step 1: Seek Necessary Medical Attention
Injuries from a dog bite can be severe. Along with exterior damage to your body, there is the risk of contracting deadly diseases such as rabies and tetanus. Immediate medical intervention may be necessary to prevent long-lasting damage such as scars or disfigurement. Another crucial reason to get your injuries treated is to create a record of the initial physical trauma in the event you plan to file a lawsuit.
Step 2: Report the Incident
Local animal control recommends that citizens report all dog bite incidents. If the dog is suspected of having rabies or if it is not up to date on vaccinations, animal control may wish to quarantine the dog for observation and to prevent further spread of the disease.
Step 3: Exchange Contact Information
If possible, get the name, address, and phone number for the owner of the attacking dog. This information will be necessary in the event you wish to file a lawsuit or make an incident report. The more information you can get about the dog and the owner, the better. Other useful information may be the dog’s vaccination status and the owner’s insurance policy information.
Step 4: Keep Documentation
Keep as much information as possible about the event in a secure location. Keep track of any missed work time and compile any injury photos, medical records, or animal control reports.
Step 5: Research Your Legal Options
If the owner of the offending dog is uncooperative or evasive, you may want to consider consulting a Gulfport dog bite lawyer to seek justice. Arm yourself with knowledge of the potential compensation available to victims of dog bites. Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney can help you understand the process of filing a lawsuit and guide you through the civil court system.
Consult with an attorney as early as possible to avoid missing the personal injury lawsuit filing deadline. Mississippi’s statute of limitations requires a victim of a dog bite to file a lawsuit within three years of the injury date.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit
The legal tradition controlling Mississippi dog bite cases is known as the “one bite rule.” This rule requires a victim of a dog bite to prove the owner of the dog knew or should have known the dog was likely to attack someone. This can be a difficult thing to prove. The help of a Gulfport dog bite attorney can help victims meet this high standard.
For a dog owner to be liable for a dog bite injury, Mississippi law demands claimants provide proof the dog owner knew the dog was dangerous before the dog bite incident. To support a personal injury claim, a dog bite attorney in Gulfport must be able to demonstrate the owner knew the dog had a history of certain behaviors toward humans such as:
- Unprovoked biting,
- Menacing chasing,
- Aggressive lunging,
- Threatening growling,
- Vicious barking, or
- Hostile snarling or snapping.
The court may also consider a dog’s training as a property guard or dog-fighting animal when determining its propensity for attack. However, Mississippi courts are unlikely to consider a dog to be dangerous based solely on its breed or size.
Evidence of fault an attorney may present includes animal control reports involving previous injury incidents and witness statements describing prior concerning interactions with the dog.
Exceptions to the “One-Bite” Rule
If the offending dog does not have a documented history of dangerous behavior, you may still be able to establish the owner’s fault by proving they acted negligently. Examples of potential negligent actions include:
- Failing to keep the animal up to date on its vaccinations. Gulfport city ordinance requires owners to keep their dogs up to date on rabies vaccinations at all times.
- Allowing the dog to run at large. Gulfport city ordinance also requires owners to keep control over their dogs by keeping them on a leash or within the confines of a fence.
- Bringing the dog to a prohibited area. Private establishments, such as restaurants and malls, often have rules regarding non-service animals on their property.
An attorney can help you determine whether any of these rules affect your claim.
Defenses to a Dog Bite Claim
The court is unlikely to determine an owner should have known their dog was dangerous based on “nuisance” behaviors without further proof of a threatening demeanor. Examples of nuisance behaviors include:
- Barking at passersby,
- Jumping on strangers,
- Chasing cars, or
- Nipping as a puppy.
Despite a dog’s dangerous history, a dog owner may be able to defend against liability in certain situations in which the victim:
- Provoked the dog to attack, or
- Trespassed onto the owner’s property.
An experienced dog bite lawyer can help you understand how the actions of both the victim and the owner affect the validity of a liability claim.
While no amount of money can balance out the trauma inflicted by a dog attack, a dedicated Gulfport dog bite lawyer can help you recover the maximum available damages. These damages may include:
- Medical expenses. Treatment and recovery costs of a dog bite can be significant. If the court finds a dog owner liable, they may be responsible for paying your medical bills, including the cost of medication and physical therapy.
- Lost wages. At-fault dog owners may need to pay wages you lost because of the time you took off work to recover from the dog bite or to attend medical appointments.
- Pain and suffering. You may have lasting psychological trauma after experiencing a dog bite. The injury may cause a detrimental impact to your mental health, and you may be entitled to an amount of money to compensate for your suffering.
The amount of damages a dog bite victim can receive depends on several factors, such as the severity of the injury and the circumstances surrounding the bite. If the actions of the victim contributed to the attack, their compensation will be reduced proportionate to their percentage of fault.
Calculating the appropriate damages is a complicated process. To ensure the court awards you the highest possible compensation amount, consider consulting a dog bite lawyer in Gulfport.
Legal Support You Can Trust
If you would like to discuss your dog bite questions with a dependable and honest team of Gulfport dog bite attorneys, contact Smith & Holder, PLLC. Through our years of experience providing creative and dynamic legal representation, we have earned a reputation for excellent service. The combination of our high ethical standards and innovative legal strategies leads to impressive results. Our firm will aggressively fight for you every step of the way. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.