Dogs are supposed to be people’s best friend, but they also can be a source of great pain and suffering when they choose to bite. Dog attacks and bites are one of the most common reasons victims file personal injury lawsuits in New Mexico.
There is not a specific statute for dog bites in the state, but there are some basic grounds for liability.
- Scienter cause of action means the owner is liable for the dog bite injuries if certain conditions are met. Claimants must prove the dog owner knew or should have had reasonable knowledge their pet was vicious or had the capability of attacking someone. If the victim cannot meet these two requirements, the dog owner will not be held liable for the attack. If the victim can prove the owner was aware of their dog’s vicious tendencies, the dog owner is on the hook for medical costs and any pain and suffering when a personal injury lawsuit is filed.
- Negligence means several things under New Mexico law when it comes to dog bites and animal attacks. Even if the pet owner is unaware of temperament issues with their dog, they still can be held accountable for any damages or injuries the animal causes if they have neglected to keep their pet under reasonable control. This means leashing an animal when in public places and ensuring it cannot leave your property in pursuit of a passerby.
- Landlords can be held responsible for animal attacks and dog bites by tenants’ pets if it can be proven they had knowledge the animal was dangerous or had a mean temperament.
New Mexico law recognizes what is known as the “one-bite” rule. In a nutshell, if it is the first time a dog has aggressively attacked or bitten someone, the owner cannot be held liable. The rule suggests claimants are required to prove a pattern of hostile and threatening behavior from the dog before they can successfully pursue damages.
However, the one-bite rule is not exclusive in determining whether a personal injury attorney in Albuquerque can pursue damages for a client. Negligence and prior knowledge of a dog’s aggressive behavior are two reasons a victim can follow through with their claim. Our experienced personal injury lawyers at Cameron & Russell will evaluate your case to determine the likelihood of success before making a recommendation to proceed.
When trying to sidestep the one-bite rule, there are several considerations our team makes during the initial investigation.
- The breed of the dog goes a long way toward proving aggressive tendencies. For instance, Rottweilers, Pitbulls, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Akitas are among the dog breeds known for their aggressiveness. If the dog that bit you was one of these breeds, it might be possible to pursue a case without first meeting the one-bite rule.
- The behavior of the animal when placed in certain situations like being fenced in a yard or other enclosed area is a great indicator of whether it will be aggressive with others.
- The dog shows open hostility toward other people or domestic animals without provocation.
Any of these signs can bolster a personal injury lawsuit for injuries sustained during an animal attack or dog-biting incident.
One of the most popular defenses against animal attacks and dog bites in New Mexico is provocation. If a pet owner can prove the victim knew or should have known the animal had a poor temperament and was likely to bite, yet still put themselves in harm’s way by interacting with the animal, they can escape liability.
Another way dog owners can avoid liability is if they can prove the victim was trespassing on their property when the attack occurred. In New Mexico, there is no personal injury protection for individuals who are on another person’s property uninvited.
Dog bites and animal attacks can cause serious injuries with the potential for causing chronic pain and suffering. Smaller dogs tend to be limited in the amount of damage they can inflict, with stitches being the most common treatment. Larger dogs, especially breeds with locking jaws like Pitbulls and Rottweilers, can cause serious and even fatal injuries. Their teeth are bigger, the dogs themselves are physically stronger, and they can bite multiple times during an attack.
Aside from the immediate injuries caused by a dog bite or animal attack, victims also may need to receive rabies shots. If the animal that attacks the victim is unknown to them and they are unable to obtain vaccination records from the owner promptly, victims will want to start preventative treatment for rabies. Medical professionals recommend immediately starting a rabies vaccination protocol to offer the best protection.