Coronavirus Blog: Here’s What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Claims
Dog bites are on the rise throughout the US–and some see lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and other restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic as the possible culprits. Indeed–for many individuals sheltering at home during the COVID-19 outbreak for weeks or months on end, walking their dogs has become a much-welcome respite from the mandatory confinement of one’s apartment–and an important way to keep the sanity. Both in Spain and in Italy, some individuals resorted to renting pets to be able to bypass coronavirus restrictions. Meanwhile, some reports suggest that dog adoptions have greatly increased in the States.
How does it all relate to an increased risk of dog bites? There are at least two reasons for this. First, it seems that the stress and uncertainty caused by the intrusion of the pandemic into our lives are affecting our pets too. In the course of thousands of years of domestication and close contact with humans, dogs seem to have become natural empaths, keenly attuned to recognize and mimic human emotional states.
Second, dogs are additionally stressed out because they are not that accustomed to having so many people around them all the time. As noted by one expert: “Dogs that are used to kids being at school and adults at work are now finding themselves surrounded by their families 24/7. Most welcome the company but some dogs are having a hard time adjusting to the constant noise, attention and lack of space.”
All these factors combined–more-stressed-out people taking their more-stressed-out dogs outside more often–are a perfect recipe for an increase in both the risk and the actual number of dog bites. While some dog bite incidents are mundane, others can lead to serious injuries and even disability. That’s why many are rightfully wondering what legal protections there may be in place for dog bite victims. In this article, we will briefly analyze when a dog bite may lead to an injury claim and why it may be necessary for a victim to file one.
When a Dog Bite Can Lead to a Legal Claim
If a person becomes injured due to negligent or reckless actions of another individual, the victim has the right to file a legal claim–an insurance claim or a lawsuit–against that individual to obtain compensation. Legally speaking, each person has a duty towards others to act within the boundaries of safety. A failure to do so is called negligence. Recklessness is similar to negligence but it is also characterized as wanton disregard for the safety of others.
How can these concepts be applied to dog bites? In New Mexico, there are laws in place that impose certain obligations on dog owners to ensure both the safety of pets and the safety of other people. For example, in Albuquerque, it is illegal to have a dog off-leash in public places. In addition, the dog should always be accompanied by a person, and the leash shouldn’t be longer than 8 feet. If the owner of a dog fails to comply with these regulations and the dog bites and injures another person, it may be argued that the owner failed to take reasonable safety precautions. The injured party may file a compensation claim or lawsuit alleging negligence on the part of the dog owner.
The liability of a dog owner for injuries caused by the dog is further recognized by specific elements of New Mexico state law. For example, the Uniform Jury Instructions for courts in New Mexico contains the following clause: “An owner of a dog is liable for damages proximately caused by the dog if the owner knew, or should have known, that the dog was vicious or had a tendency or natural inclination to be vicious.”
Interestingly, in cases where dog owners knew that their pets were aggressive or dangerous, they may be accused of more than negligence–rather, they may be held accountable on the basis of strict liability. In such a case, the injured party will not have to also prove that the dog owner acted carelessly and that this carelessness was the factor leading to the injuries.
Why You May Need to File a Claim After a Dog Bite
As mentioned, dog bites often lead to injuries that can have serious complications like broken bones, disfigurement, nerve damage, or rabies. They can also have significant emotional effects on the victim’s life. Both the physical and emotional ramifications of a dog bite may require extensive and costly treatment. At times, dog bite injuries may also negatively affect a person’s personal and professional life–and all these factors result in significant monetary losses that can leave a person’s budget severely depleted for months or years on end.
A personal injury claim or lawsuit can often be the only available way for a dog bite victim to recover–both physically and financially. Therefore, if you or a family member has been bitten by a dog during this pandemic, it may be prudent to contact an experienced dog bite personal injury lawyer to discuss your options.
Ron Bell Injury Lawyers would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere hope that all our readers stay safe and healthy at the time of this pandemic. We would also like to encourage members of our community to review helpful safety reminders here and check our blog for related content in the weeks to come.