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Dog Bites

The statistics on dog attacks in the United States are alarming. Unfortunately, the situation appears to be getting worse each year. The number of innocent people seriously injured or killed by dogs in the United States increases dramatically every year. Children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, accounting for nearly 70% of all reported bite-related injuries. Dog attacks cause some of the most gruesome personal injuries, particularly where children are involved. Dog bite injuries frequently result in permanent scarring, infection, disfigurement, and lasting nerve damage, in addition to the substantial psychological harm caused by an encounter with a vicious dog. The effects of dog bite injuries are widely felt. In the United States, nearly 2% of the population (almost 4.7 million people) is bitten by a dog each year and almost half of all children are bitten by the time they turn 18. Almost 600,000 dog bite wounds require medical care each year, constituting 5% of all emergency room admissions. Surprisingly, approximately 60% of dog-attacks happen in the victim's home, most involving the family's or a friend's dog.

Dog bite law is a unique combination of city and county ordinances, state statutory law, state case law, and common law, thus the laws dictating dog attacks vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states follow a strict liability dog bite statute providing that the dog owner is liable for damages inflicted by his or her dog if it bites a person who is either in a public place or lawfully on the dog owner's property. In these states, the dog owner is liable regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before and regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe it would behave in a vicious manner. Other states hold owners liable only after the victim shows a requisite level of knowledge regarding the likelihood of his or her dog's violent behaviors.

In these states, the plaintiff must investigate whether the dog previously bit anyone. If so, the dog owner is generally held strictly liable for any subsequent injuries. If the dog has not caused injury previously, the issue becomes whether the dog previously acted in a way that should have put the owner on notice of the dog's inclination to bite. If this level of knowledge cannot be established, the owner may still be liable if the owner was violating a law intended to protect the public, like a leash law, at the time the injuries were sustained. Such a violation is considered "negligence per se." Where negligence per se cannot be established, the issue becomes whether the injuries came as a result of the owner's negligence. For example, an abused dog is more likely to bite a person, even if the dog has never done so before. The negligent act of abusing the dog can give rise to the owner's liability.


All of the foregoing assumes that the owner of a perpetrating dog can be identified. Unfortunately, those victims of stray dogs often have little legal recourse where the dog's owner cannot be identified, since the owner's identity is commonly required to file a claim. Even where local animal control authorities have been contacted repeatedly to request the removal of the stray, the municipality is most often not liable for any injuries caused by the dog. In all dog bite cases it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the incident in question, and to enable physicians or other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injuries.

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog or injured in an accident in West Palm Beach or the surrounding areas, call theaccident lawyers of Weinstein & Scharf inWest Palm Beach at (866) 599-5529. The law offices of Weinstein & Scharf also handle pedestrianaccidents, truckaccidents, and motorcycleaccidents in cities such as Lake Worth, Lantana, Delray Beach, Deerfield Beach, Margate, Pompano Beachand Fort Lauderdale. The Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers andattorneys take pride in serving citizens throughout Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Weinstein & Scharf is a personal injury/accident firm with offices in Coral Springs, Delray Beach, Plantation, Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach. Contact us now to find out how we can help you.
Categories: Dog Bites
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