Know Your Rights Against Dog Owners
As the adage goes, dogs are a man’s best friend. Dog owners certainly seem to embrace that notion. Victims of dog bites, not so much. Dogs can cause a great deal of pain and suffering when they choose to attack. Insurance companies paid out $853.7 million in claims for dog bite injuries in 2020 alone, reflecting a 7.1 percent increase in the number of dog bite claims filed. It pays to know your rights against dog owners in Albuquerque, NM in case you ever become the victim of a dog bite or attack.
Who is responsible for dog bites and dog attacks?
Many dog owners believe their pets are harmless and would never hurt – let alone attack – another person. Taking that risk can open your up to a personal injury lawsuit. While there are no specific statutes for dog bites in New Mexico, there are some basic grounds for liability. They include:
- Scienter cause of action places the blame on the dog owner under certain conditions. If the victim can provide the dog owner knew or should have known their pet could attack someone, the dog owner is liable for the attack. This means dog owners are on the hook for medical costs and any pain and suffering of the victim.
- Negligence happens when people fail to keep their pets under reasonable control. This means leashing your dog when in public and ensuring it cannot leave your property in pursuit of passersby.
- Landlords are liable along with pet owners if a victim can prove the landlord allowed a dangerous dog to live on the premises.
Beware the New Mexico “One-Bite Rule”
In Albuquerque and all of New Mexico, there is something called the “one-bite” rule. Essentially, it is a first-offense guideline for dogs. If a dog bites or otherwise attacks a person, and it is the first time the dog has behaved in this manner, the owner cannot be held liable. The rule acts as a one-free-pass scenario for pet owners. If the victim can prove the dog has a pattern of hostile or threatening behavior, they can successfully pursue damages from the pet owner.
Just because the one-bite rule exists does not mean it is the sole determining factor in whether a personal injury lawsuit is appropriate. Negligence and prior knowledge of a dog’s aggressive nature can override the rule. Another consideration is the breed of the dog. Some breeds – Akitas, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pitbulls – have a reputation for being aggressive. If one of these breeds bites or attacks you, it is possible to bypass the one-bite rule.
The experienced personal injury lawyers at Cameron & Russell can review your case to determine if it is likely to succeed.
Common injuries from dog attacks
Dog bites and attacks vary in severity. Smaller dogs may not do as much damage as larger breeds. Some dog bites cause permanent scarring and tissue damage. Common injuries from dog attacks include:
- Broken bones
- Nerve damage
- Puncture wounds
Any time you are bitten by an unknown or unfamiliar dog, rabies is an issue. If you cannot verify the vaccination status of the dog, healthcare providers will recommend you undergo a series of rabies treatments as a preventative measure. It prevents the virus from entering your central nervous system if it is present in the dog’s saliva.
Victims also can suffer from emotional effects like posttraumatic stress disorder from dog attacks, which requires therapy to help them cope.
Preventing dog bites and attacks
While the onus is on the dog owner to ensure their pet is under control, there are some things you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim. The first and most important is to never approach an unfamiliar dog. The urge to pet and interact with unfamiliar animals can lead to serious and debilitating injuries. If you are approached by a strange dog that appears confrontational, never run. The animal will see that as an encouragement to pursue. Also, avoid making direct eye contact with a dog. They interpret this as a sign of aggression and may respond in kind.
If you are knocked down by an unfamiliar dog, the best thing you can do is roll into a ball to protect your head and limbs and “play dead.” Be as still as possible.
Statute of limitations on dog bite claims
As with other personal injury cases, there is a three-year time limit on filing a dog bite claim in Albuquerque, NM. If you are injured by a dog attack, it is critical you reach out to a personal injury lawyer familiar with dog bite cases. They can review the merits of your case and determine if you can successfully seek damages from the dog’s owner.
Our team of personal injury attorneys goes the extra mile to pursue your case. Schedule your free consultation to discuss your case with us. We promise to approach your case with a fresh eye and the attention to detail it deserves. Request an appointment online or call us at 505-218-7844 to get started.