Homeowner’s insurance exists to help reimburse people who are injured on another person’s property. The compensation available generally depends on the homeowner’s specific policy, but insurance should generally pay for dog bite injuries.
You might not believe a dog bite is serious. You also might blame yourself for reaching out to pet a dog that attacked you. However, dog bite wounds could result in serious medical complications, especially if the attack was fierce or if the wound developed an infection. As a victim, you have the right to press criminal charges and pursue financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury on someone else’s property in a premises liability accident like a slip and fall accident, or for something like a dog bite, our attorneys may be able to help. Our Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyers represent injured people throughout Arkansas and fight to get them the compensation they need to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering for accidental injuries. To discuss the details of your dog bite case, call (479) 316-0438.
Arkansas Dog Bite Law
Arkansas has no statewide rule on dogs that will help you recover for an injury. In some states, there are laws regarding animal enclosures, collars, leashes, and other ways of controlling potentially dangerous dogs. In those states, violation of those laws can be used as evidence of “negligence per se.” This makes proving a dog bite injury case much simpler. However, while Arkansas has no statewide dog leash or fence rules, local or city governments may have their own rules that allow you to claim negligence per se.
In a typical negligence case, you must prove the four elements to collect compensation for your claim.
The Defendant Owed You a Duty
A person generally has a responsibility to act in such a way as not to cause harm to another. For example, a driver should follow the rules of the road so they do not endanger others. Legally, the existence of this duty is based on the relationship between the parties involved. A dog owner has a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect others from their animal, especially if they know their dog has a tendency to bite
The Defendant Breached That Duty
Proving that a duty was breached can be challenging. In simple terms, a defendant breaches their duty when their conduct deviates from what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances. However, the devil is in the details. If a dog had never bitten anyone over five or six years, a dog owner might have a reasonable belief that it did not present a threat. However, if the dog had a history of snapping at strangers, letting the dog wander on a long leash or close to people could be deemed unreasonable.
Because of the Breach, You Were Harmed
The next element is sometimes called “causation.” An injured plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct caused their injury. In a dog bite case, you must prove that the defendant’s inattentiveness or other conduct allowed the dog to bite you. If you were petting the dog despite the owner’s protests, you could be held at fault.
You Suffered Specific Harms a Court Could Redress (Called “Damages”)
You need to prove that you suffered quantifiable damages. For example, you incurred medical costs to treat the bite or missed work while you were recovering. Damages do not have to be financial. The court could allow you to recover for emotional distress or mental anguish.
If there is a statute or ordinance that requires dog owners to use a leash, cage the animal, or warn passersby and guests about the dog, it can help you prove the first two elements. Negligence per se means that breaking a rule is sufficient to show the first two elements – duty and breach.
Arkansas does have a statewide criminal law regarding dog bites. This makes it a crime to allow a dog that the owner knows is dangerous to attack someone. More specifically, Arkansas follows the “one-bite” legal doctrine when dealing with dog bites. Under the law, a court could hold a dog owner liable for a dog bit if their dog had either previously bitten another person or had a known propensity to bite. Once an owner knows their dog’s behavior tendencies, the state expects them to take reasonable precautions to protect others from their pet.
To an untrained eye, Arkansas dog bite laws might not appear clear. This is why, if a dog has bitten you, you should contact our Arkansas personal injury attorneys to review your options. It is possible to seek damages in a civil court and file criminal charges.
If the owner was so negligent that they violated this law, you might be entitled to restitution through the criminal courts. However, this compensation might not be sufficient to cover your injuries, especially since it is unlikely to include damages for your pain and suffering.
Taking the dog owner to court might entitle you to further compensation that insurance or criminal restitution would not cover.
What to do if You Were Bitten by a Dog in Arkansas
Being bitten or attacked by a dog is serious. Depending on the dog’s size, where you were bitten, and the ferocity of the attack, the consequences could be severe. You might not know what to do after an unexpected attack from a dog. However, as with other personal injury cases, the steps you take immediately following a dog bite could influence your chances of obtaining compensation. Below, we look at some of the things you should do after being bitten by a dog.
- If the injury is severe, you should contact the police. This is especially the case if you believe you require emergency medical treatment.
- You should get the contact information of the dog owner. Ask for their name, address, and email.
- Request the dog’s vaccination records.
- Take photographs of your injuries.
- Look for witnesses that might have seen what occurred and collect their names and contact information.
If you do not require immediate medical attention, you should still go to an urgent care facility or see your doctor as soon as possible. As with any traumatic event, you might not realize the extent of your injuries due to a rush of adrenaline. If a dog bite goes untreated or gets infected, it could lead to serious complications, including amputation.
It is also important to start building your personal injury case. The best way to do this is by creating a medical history, including documenting your injuries. An important factor in any personal injury case is linking your injuries to the incident in question.
You should also be careful with what you say following a dog bite incident. Under no circumstances should you admit fault. Likewise, you should not accept any settlement offers without speaking with our Arkansas personal injury lawyers. If you agree to a settlement or accept a check, you will be prohibited from seeking additional compensation – no matter how the bite impacts your health.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit of a Criminal Complaint for an Arkansas Dog Bite
If a dog bites you in Arkansas, the dog owner could be criminally prosecuted. However, a criminal prosecution does not preclude filing a personal injury lawsuit. There are several reasons why you should consider filing a claim in civil court, even if the dog owner is facing criminal charges.
First, you will not be required to prove liability beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil action, a plaintiff only needs to show that a defendant was negligent by a preponderance of the evidence. In more simple terms, you will have to demonstrate that the dog owner was “probably” guilty of negligence to hold them liable for damages.
While a criminal court could order restitution, it will probably be far from enough to cover your damages, including medical expenses and lost wages. Additionally, a court will not order a defendant to pay restitution for emotional damages, pain and suffering, or other intangible harm.
The criminal charges will provide valuable evidence in a personal injury case. If the dog owner was charged with a violation of a statute or ordinance, it will be easier to establish that the dog owner was negligent and should be held accountable for their animal’s behavior.
Homeowner’s Insurance Might Cover Dog Bites
Dog bites actually account for over a third of all homeowner’s insurance claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). This means you can rest assured that, at the very least, homeowner’s insurance should pay for some of your injuries if you are bitten by someone else’s dog on their property. However, just because insurance covers the situation does not mean you will be covered in every case.
First, the homeowner must have insurance in the first place. Sometimes, homeowners may allow their insurance to lapse because of non-payment or other reasons. Alternatively, they may rent their house or apartment and do not carry renters’ insurance. Second, the bite must actually occur on their property. If someone’s dog bites you off their property, on the street, or at another person’s house (or your house), insurance might not cover it. In this case, you may need to resort to other forms of compensation.
If insurance will not cover injuries or does not cover enough of the compensation, you might need to sue the dog owner in court. While insurance may compensate medical expenses and some of your wages if you were unable to work while recovering from your injuries, it may not cover enough. One of the largest parts of damages is usually compensation for pain and suffering. These damages are separate from compensation for medical bills and are based on your personal experience of your pain and the mental suffering associated with injury. These damages might only be recoverable through a lawsuit.
If the injury did not occur in a place or a way that insurance covers, you might have no way of seeking recovery except to take the dog owner to court. If the dog injured you on your own property or on the street, suing the owner might be your best chance for compensation. Alternatively, if the dog was ordered to attack you, insurance might not cover an intentional injury.
Be sure to discuss insurance settlement offers with a lawyer before you accept, to make sure that you are getting all the compensation you might be entitled to.
Arkansas Personal Injury Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
We may be able to help you get the compensation you need after dog bite injuries. If you or a loved one was injured in a dog bite or any other accident, contact our Bella Vista personal injury attorneys today. Call (479) 316-0438 today for a free consultation on your case.