Dog bites are serious business. If an aggressive dog bites you, seek medical attention immediately. After a doctor has treated you, schedule a meeting to discuss your legal rights and options with a Little Rock personal injury attorney.
If someone else’s dog bites you, what are your rights? Can you sue the dog’s owner for damages? What does Arkansas state law provide? If you’ll keep reading, you’ll learn these answers and more about aggressive dog attacks and legal your rights.
If a dog bites you, obtain medical attention and treatment at once. Dog bites are easily infected, and an untreated bite can quickly become a serious medical condition. Dog bites can cause rabies, disfigurement, staph infections, and serious muscle and tissue injuries.
What Are the Dog Bite Statistics?
If a dog exhibits symptoms of rabies, or if a dog can’t be located, rabies vaccinations may be required. In the United States, about four million dog bites are reported annually, and biting dogs are responsible for two to three dozen deaths in this country every year.
Generally speaking, a dog’s owner can be held liable for any injuries that are caused by the dog, but the rules are a bit more complicated in Arkansas, because there’s no single statewide law addressing dog bites and liability. Instead, some counties have their own dog bite ordinances.
In most Arkansas counties, to prevail with a personal injury claim arising from a dog bite incident, a dog bite victim will have to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent. In counties with no dog bite ordinance, the traditional “one bite rule” – explained below – usually applies.
How are Dog Bite Claims Handled in Arkansas?
Benton County enforces a strict liability ordinance that makes an aggressive dog’s owner liable for any injuries caused by the dog, whether or not negligence was a factor and whether or not the owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies.
But in other Arkansas counties, most dog bite claims are based on the one bite rule.
Under the one bite rule, a dog bite victim may recover damages from the owner (or keeper or “harborer”) of the dog if the dog bit someone previously, or if the dog tried to bite someone previously, and the owner was aware of that aggressive behavior.
You might think the one bite rule gives an aggressive dog “one free bite,” but that’s not the case. A personal injury claim arising from a dog bite may also be based on “simple” negligence – the contention that the dog owner’s negligence was a direct cause of the bite victim’s injuries.
If a dog bites someone because its owner violated a local dog ordinance, regulation, or statute, an Arkansas civil court will consider that violation to be evidence of negligence.
How Are Most Dog Bite Cases Resolved?
Most dog bite claims in Arkansas are resolved out-of-court, but if a settlement can’t be negotiated, your lawyer may suggest going to trial and asking a civil court to order the payment of fair, thorough compensation.
Winning a dog bite claim is not automatic. That’s one reason why a bite victim will need a good injury attorney’s help. A dog’s owner may claim that he or she didn’t and couldn’t know that the dog would bite someone. An owner might also claim that the dog was unreasonably provoked.
If a dog bite victim in Arkansas prevails with a personal injury claim – whether the claim is based on the one bite rule, simple negligence, or strict liability – the dog’s owner may be held liable for the bite victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and more.
How Do the Criminal Courts Handle Dog Bite Incidents?
While there’s no statewide civil law that addresses dog bite claims in Arkansas, there’s a criminal statute that can sometimes be helpful. It is a misdemeanor in Arkansas to allow, through an owner’s negligence, an aggressive dog to inflict injury or death on another person.
If a dog’s owner is convicted, a judge or jury may order the owner to pay the bite victim’s medical bills as restitution. But it may be difficult for the state to win a criminal conviction – and to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – against a dog owner in a criminal dog bite case.
Why Should a Dog Bite Victim File a Personal Injury Claim?
Thus, a dog bite victim should consider filing a personal injury claim in an Arkansas civil court – even if the dog’s owner is criminally prosecuted – because:
1. You won’t have to prove liability beyond a reasonable doubt. A “preponderance of the evidence” is all that’s necessary to prevail. In other words, proving that a dog’s owner was “probably” negligent is all that’s required to hold the dog owner liable for damages.
2. Even if a criminal court orders the payment of restitution, it won’t be enough. Restitution may cover some medical expenses, but criminal courts will not order restitution for personal pain and suffering, emotional damages, and similar losses.
3. As mentioned previously, if a dog bites someone because the owner violated an ordinance or statute, the violation will be deemed evidence of negligence in a civil court.
How Much Time Do You Have to Take Legal Action?
State law establishes a time limit – a statute of limitations – on claims arising from dog bites and all other personal injury claims. A dog bite claim, in most cases, must be initiated within three years of the dog bite incident.
But you cannot wait three years and scramble to take legal action at the last minute. Don’t even wait three weeks after a dog bite to discuss your rights and options with a Little Rock personal injury attorney. As soon as you’ve been treated for the dog bite, schedule a consultation.
You Pay No Attorney’s Fee Unless Your Claim Prevails
Don’t worry about the cost. Your first consultation with an Arkansas personal injury lawyer will cost nothing and entail no obligation. It’s your chance to get personalized advice on how the law applies in your own case.
Arkansas injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. That means you pay no attorney’s fee unless and until you are compensated for your injuries with an out-of-court settlement or a jury verdict. The contingent fee system allows everyone to seek justice and have a day in court.
If you are injured by a biting dog in Arkansas, the law is on your side. Put your case in the hands of a reliable personal injury attorney, and put the law to work for you.