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Should you sue after a dog bite in New Mexico?

No one likes to think that Fido could be responsible for their pain and suffering. After all, dogs are a man’s best friend (or so the adage goes). The truth is, dogs can and do bite, sometimes leading to serious injuries. Roughly 4.5 million dog bites happen each year in the U.S. If you are bitten by a dog – even one familiar to you – it is critical to discuss your options with a personal injury lawyer. Injuries suffered from dog bites can have lasting effects on your health and well-being. A personal injury attorney can review your rights under New Mexico law and discuss options to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.

dog bite, dog injury
Dogs can nip and bite when playing with other dogs or with their human friends. It is not always a sign of aggression.

Why do dogs bite?

When it comes right down to it, dogs can bite for several reasons. Even normally friendly dogs can be provoked to attack under the right circumstances. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), here are some of the most common reasons dogs may attack.

  • Stress. When dogs find themselves in an unfamiliar situation, it can cause anxiety. If they become stressed out enough, they can lash out at anyone near them.
  • Defending their territory. Dogs may perceive threats where none exist. If they think you are threatening them, their puppies, their territory, or even their owners, they may attack.
  • Illness. Animals cannot tell us when they are feeling unwell. Sometimes, they communicate their pain in the only way they know how – by biting.
  • Playfulness. Dogs can nip and bite when they are playing with other dogs and their human friends. While it is a normal part of play for them, it does not mean you cannot receive a serious injury if it happens.

Ultimately, it is the dog owner’s responsibility to keep their pet under control. Proper socialization and behavior training can go a long way toward preventing dog bites.

stitches, facial lacerations, dog bite injury
Facial lacerations and other injuries from dog bites can leave lasting scars and damage.

Common injuries from dog attacks

Sometimes a nip from a furry friend barely causes a scratch. Other times, it may require stitches. Worst-case scenario, it may require surgery or other life-saving measures.

Some of the common injuries associated with dog bites include:

  • Broken bones and skull fractures
  • Facial injuries and lacerations
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Puncture wounds
  • Rabies

If you are bitten by an unfamiliar dog and cannot determine if the animal is up-to-date on its vaccinations, you may be subjected to preventative treatment for rabies. This involves a series of shots to prevent the rabies virus from infecting you. Rabies shots require two doses, each with a different purpose. The first dose is a fast-acting rabies immune globulin injected near the site of the dog bite wound to prevent the virus from taking hold. Over the next 14 days, you will receive another series of shots aimed at building up your body’s natural immunity to the rabies virus. These are given as injections in the arm or leg. While they are not painful, it is inconvenient to go through the process since it takes several visits to a hospital or other medical practitioner who provides rabies treatment.

New Mexico dog bite law

New Mexico does not have a specific dog bite statute. There are ways for dog attack victims to recover damages for emotional, psychological, and physical pain and suffering.

New Mexico does not have laws that specifically address dog bites and attacks. That does not mean persons who are injured by dogs cannot recover damages. Injured parties have the option of pursuing a strict liability case against the dog’s owner. New Mexico’s supreme court ruled in 2009 that dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries their dogs cause if they know or should have known their dog(s) tended to be vicious.

One of the only exceptions to existing case law is an injured party who deliberately provokes a dog and is then attacked by the dog. If the defendant can prove their dog was intentionally aggravated, the plaintiff will have a difficult time recovering any damages.

How much money can you get if a dog bites you?

How much money you can get if a dog bites or attacks you depends on the seriousness of your injuries and other mitigating factors. We can review the merits of your personal injury claim and advise you on what you can expect to receive in damages if your dog bite claim is successful.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost paid out for dog bite insurance claims in 2019 was $44,760. A separate study ranks New Mexico 35th on the list of states with the most dog injury payouts. The most recent statistics available for the state cite 96 dog bite claims with an average award of just over $40,000 for each claim. That is $3.85 million awarded to victims in just one year.

Experienced dog bite lawyers in Albuquerque

As with most personal injury lawsuits, dog bite and dog attack cases often are settled out of court. This is good news for most victims, as it spares them the trauma of going through a court proceeding. Choosing an experienced dog bite attorney is your best bet in securing fair compensation for injuries and pain and suffering from a dog bite or attack.

Bill Russell is one half of the powerhouse team at Cameron & Russell. Born and raised in Albuquerque, Bill is an experienced personal injury lawyer. He is focused on representing injured people and their families throughout New Mexico. His previous work as an insurance defense firm law clerk gives him insight into how insurance companies think, helping victims to navigate the complicated system to receive fair compensation for their dog bite injuries. Reach out to Cameron & Russell today to schedule a no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.

March 12, 2021