Dog bites are shockingly common in Alabama, and they can cause life-changing and disfiguring injuries. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what they should do after being attacked by a vicious dog – and they sometimes lose out on the compensation they deserve.
In this blog, Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys outlines what you need to know before you file a dog bite claim with the insurance company.
The Essentials of Alabama Dog Bite Law
Dog bites are some of the scariest things that can happen in a victim’s life. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States every year, and 885,000 victims will need medical care.
However, there’s a lot of confusion about Alabama’s dog bite laws. You may have even heard that every dog gets one “free” bite, but that’s not always true.
If a Dog Bites Someone, the Owner May Be Strictly Liable
Alabama’s dog bite laws vary, depending on whether you know your dog is aggressive or dangerous.
- Dangerous Dogs: When a dangerous dog’s owners are careless or let it roam freely, they are liable if the animal bites someone without provocation.
- Average Dogs: Owners are strictly liable when their dog bites someone who is legally on their property and did not provoke the animal.
However, Alabama places some limits on claims against previously friendly dogs. First, the bite must occur on property that the owner owns or controls – it does not typically cover bites in public places. Second, victims are limited to their actual damages, such as medical bills and lost income; they cannot demand compensation for their non-economic damages.
If you can prove that the owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies, you may be eligible for additional damages, including compensation for your pain and suffering.
Emily’s Law: Owners Have a Duty to Protect Us From Dangerous Dogs
In 2018, Alabama enacted Emily’s Law, named after a young woman who died during a dog attack. County officials now must investigate formal complaints about dangerous dogs, following a three-step process.
If the county designates a dog as “dangerous,” the owners must take a series of precautions:
- Register the dog with the county and pay an annual fee
- Sign an affidavit certifying that the dog will always be properly secured or supervised
- Prove that there is a proper, locked enclosure for the dog
- Obtain a $100,000 surety bond that covers the dog
- Microchip and spay or neuter the dog
If a court-designated dangerous dog attacks someone, the dog may be euthanized, and the owner may face criminal charges in addition to personal injury claims.
Most Homeowner’s Insurance Policies Cover Dog Bites
A dog bite can cause catastrophic injuries, especially when the victim is a child. Thankfully, most homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bite claims, although some policies exclude certain breeds from their coverage. An experienced dog bite lawyer can help you identify potential sources of coverage and compensation.
You Have Two Years to File Your Dog Bite Lawsuit
Once a dog bites you, you typically have two years to pursue legal action. Once this deadline passes, you lose your right to compensation. If you have questions about your case, it’s in your best interest to contact a dog bite lawyer right away.
5 Things You Must Do After a Dog Bite
A dog attack or mauling causes chaos, especially if the victim is a child or seriously injured. However, quick thinking and prompt action can prevent a tragic situation from becoming even worse. In the aftermath of a dog bite, follow these five simple steps. They may save your life and strengthen your legal claims.
1. Make Sure Everyone Is Safe
After an attack, make sure everyone is safe and that the dog is under control. If someone suffered serious injuries or you need help subduing the aggressive dog, you should contact the authorities.
2. Go to the Doctor
Whether or not you think you’re hurt badly, it’s always in your best interest to go to the doctor after an attack or accident. A doctor can help identify unrecognized injuries, treat your wounds, and help prevent complications.
Your medical records will also serve as important evidence in your dog bite claim. They will document your injuries, explain their severity, and help your lawyer calculate your claim’s worth.
3. File a Report with Animal Control
Under Emily’s Law, animal control and law enforcement authorities have a duty to investigate dog bite complaints. Your formal complaint is also an important piece of evidence that can support your personal injury claims.
4. Collect Important Evidence
If you can, take down the contact information of any witnesses who saw the attack; their input can be extremely valuable when you file an insurance claim or take legal action. Get the name, contact, and insurance information of the dog owner as well.
Be sure to take photos of your wounds and write down as much information as you can about the attack as soon as you can. Your brain is designed to protect you from traumatic memories, so something that seems so sharp and clear will inevitably begin to fade.
5. Call a Dog Bite Lawyer
While seemingly straightforward, dog bite cases can be quite complicated, especially when they involve children. Sometimes, victims get tricked out of what they’re owed or under-value their case. If you have questions about your situation, are considering filing a suit, or want help navigating the claims process, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced Alabama dog bite lawyer.
Once you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to call the dog owner’s insurance company and begin the claims process. However, this process is notoriously challenging, with the company doing all it can to settle your case as cheaply and quickly as possible. A dog bite lawyer can help you navigate this process and make sure you get every penny you’re owed.
Let One of Our Experienced Dog Bite Lawyers Fight for You
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we believe that no one should live in fear of dangerous dogs, and no victim should be denied the resources they need after an attack. That’s why we fight for every client like they were our own family.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog in Alabama, let us fight for you so you can focus on your recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out to request your free consultation — you don’t even have to leave your home because we can come to you.
Gilchrist, J., Sacks, J.J., White, D., Kresnow, M-J (2008). Dog bites: Still a problem? Injury Prevention. Retrieved from https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/14/5/296.long
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.