New York City Personal Injury Law Blog
Dog Bites and Personal Injury Lawsuits
Posted on Dec 1, 2017 in Dog Bites
According to statistics, about 1,000 people in the United States require emergency medical treatment each day for serious dog bite injuries. About 9,500 people are hospitalized each year as a result of injuries sustained from dog bites.
In 2016, 31 fatalities related to dog bites occurred in the US. Pit bulls and Rottweilers, the second most dangerous dog breed, together accounted for 77% of the total deaths recorded in the same year. Statistics also reveal that from 2005 to 2016, 254 Americans were killed by pit bulls (some people believe they should be outlawed) – that is, about 1 person every 17 days – while 43 people were killed by Rottweilers – that is, 1 person every 102 days.
Woman from Ithaca Files a Lawsuit After Being Bitten by a Police Dog
A woman from Ithaca, New York, claimed that she was bitten by an Ithaca police dog and has filed a lawsuit against the City of Ithaca as well as the dog’s handler.
Debra S. Brown sued the city and Officer Jamie Buffone in Tompkins County’s New York State Supreme Court due to the alleged attack. She said that the incident occurred in November 2016 in the parking lot of the Ithaca Shopping Plaza, which is located by South Meadow Street and Elmira Road.
In the lawsuit, Brown alleged that she sustained serious and severe personal injuries because Rex, a German Shepherd police dog, attacked, mauled, and bit her after Buffone took him out of her patrol vehicle. The lawsuit stated that the attack and injuries took place due to the negligence and/or carelessness of the defendants.
The suit also stated that Brown received medical treatment following the incident, for which she incurred expenses.
The police dog Rex was sworn into active duty on June 2016. Both Buffone and the dog specialize in narcotics detection. The pair completed a nine-week tracking, obedience, and patrol training in May 2016. Buffone and Rex both graduated from the program with honors and were awarded the Sgt. Rod Dalton Award by the department.
The spokesman for the Ithaca Police Department, Officer Jamie Williamson said that Office Buffone was an exemplary police officer and that she received a number of letters of commendation from her superiors and is one of the most well-respected officers in her department. The statement also added that per standard protocol, the department could not comment on pending litigation.
When the alleged attack took place, Rex was 20 months old. Buffone has worked in the Ithaca Police Department for 12 years and is the first female K-9 handler in the department.
The Ithaca Police Department said that there is at least one other K-9 within the agency. Bert, another German Shepherd, specializes in the detection of bombs and gunpowder.
If a Dog Bites You
If you are bitten by a dog or any animal, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention immediately. If your injury is not treated, a bite from a dog or other animal can result in serious injury, infection, and if the animal is diseased, even death.
Once you have been evaluated by a medical professional, you should also consider consulting a personal injury lawyer who has experience in dealing with dog bite cases. A legal counselor will be able to tell you whether or not you have a legal claim and if you do, what type of damages you may be able to recover.
A lawyer will ask you for detailed information regarding the circumstances that surround your dog bite incident. You should, at the minimum, provide the name and contact number of the owner of the dog that bit you. If you do not have this information, a witness or neighbor should be able to provide it to you. Additionally, if there were any witnesses present when the incident took place, you should also get their names and contact information.
Owner Liability for Dog Bites
When it comes to deciding who is responsible for a dog bite, the first thing you need to determine is: who is the owner of the dog? In some states, “strict liability” is imposed on owners whose dog or animal attacks or bites other people.
As per the theory of strict liability, an owner is “liable”, or legally responsible, for a dog bite, whether or not the owner of the dog did anything wrong with respect to providing protection to other people from a bite or attack. The theory also states that even if the owner did not have any reason to know that their dog was dangerous, the owner would still be deemed liable if their dog bit someone.
In other states, a dog owner can be held liable for the injury that their dog inflicts, provided that they knew, or had reason to know, that the dog had “dangerous propensities.” This means that if the owner of a dog knows that it is dangerous and could attack a person, the owner can be held liable for the harmful actions of the dog.
It can be difficult to determine whether an owner knew that their dog had “dangerous propensities.” When making this determination, the first question that often comes up is whether the owner is required to have knowledge of the potential for harm of the particular dog, or whether the owner only needs to know that type of animal has potential for harm. For example, when an individual has a pet pit bull, does that mean that the owner should know or knows that their pet has potential for harm, just because, pit bulls in general can be dangerous and cause harm to others?
Parties that Can Be Potentially Liable for Dog Bites
Dog owners are not the only ones who can be held liable for dog bites or attacks. A few common scenarios where a person other than the owner of the dog could be held legally responsible for a dog bite include the following:
- Animal Keepers: Any person who is responsible for the custody or care of a dog or any other animal may be considered a keeper or owner and can be held liable for a bite or attack. Some examples are an animal sitter, a pound or kennels.
- Parents of Minor Children: In many states, even if a person who is aged under 18 years, owns the dog in question, an injured person can bring a legal claim against the parents of the minor, even if the parents were not directly involved with the dog.
- Landlords: If a landlord of an apartment knew, or should have known, that a tenant is the owner of a dangerous dog or animal, the landlord may also be liable for injuries caused by an attack or dog bite.
- Property Owners: A property owner can be held liable for injuries caused by a dog that they allowed onto their property.
Types of Damages You Can Recover
Depending on how serious your injuries are when you have bitten or attacked by a dog, you may be entitled to recover damages for:
- Medical bills – past, present, and future
- Hospital or emergency room costs
- Loss of income
- Reduced earning capacity
- Damage to property
- Pain and suffering
In some cases, you may be entitled to recover punitive damages resulting from a dog bite or attack. These are damages that are awarded to plaintiffs to punish a person for their behavior. In order to justify an award of punitive damages, the actions of the person at fault must be more than negligent, such as intentional or reckless actions.
For example, if the owner of a dog knew that the animal was very dangerous, yet allowed it to run freely repeatedly near a park or school, and the dog attacked a child eventually, a jury could conclude that awarding punitive damages were appropriate.
5 Steps to Take After a Dog Bite Incident
The moments after being attacked by a dog or any other animal are terrifying. You may be suffering from shock and frightened that you might be attacked again. In the wake of such a vicious attack, there are a few logical steps that you must take to make sure of your health, safety as well as legal rights which are as follows:
- Find help: If you cannot fend off the dog that is attacking you yourself, shout for help from people that are nearby. Once the dog has been chased away or restrained, check your injuries and evaluate them. If you need immediate medical attention for them, call an ambulance or visit an emergency room as soon as you can. To reduce the risk of infection, you should make an appointment with your doctor or another medical professional.
- Locate the dog and its owner: The next step is to identify the dog that attacked you with the help of a family member, friend, or an eye witness and determine how to find the owner. It is not only paramount to identify the dog and its owner to help in preventing another attack on someone else but it is also critical to receiving compensation from the insurance company of the dog’s owner.
- Report the incident: The next critical step to take is to report the dog bite incident to local law enforcement or animal control agency. Make sure that you provide them with a detailed description of the dog and the name and address of its owner.
- Take pictures: It is important to take pictures of the bite wounds and other injuries that were inflicted by the dog as soon as it is safe to do so. You should also take photographs of the scene of the attack and any blood-soaked or torn clothing. It is also recommended that you obtain visual documentation of the dog if possible.
- Contact a law firm/personal injury lawyer with expertise in dog bite cases: It is crucial that you find a law firm to consult with a personal injury lawyer who has a high level of experience in cases involving dog bites or attacks. The legal counselor should have a thorough understanding of dog bite laws in your state, strict liability and what parties can be held liable for a dog bite attack, including owners of residential or commercial property, landlords, and caretakers.
It is crucial to keep in mind that you should never provide information about your dog attack experience or the injuries you sustained, or sign any document, without discussing it with your personal injury attorney. The primary goal of the insurance company is to use any information they can against you to minimize your claim or make you agree to an offer a low settlement. Your attorney should be able to seek full compensation for all of the damages that you are entitled to.
Daughter in Safety Harbor Stabs Family Dog After an Attack
When a pit bull named Buster broke loose from his West Gate Drive home in Safety Harbor, Florida and went on the attack, a teenager from the family that owned the dog stabbed him to death.
The victim of the dog bite, 45-year-old Heidi Cooper was severely bitten and laid on her back with IVs running as paramedics tended to her.
Deputies of Pinellas County stated that Buster the pit bull attacked two other pit bulls. When attempts to make him stop were made by Cooper and her two teenage daughters, Sierra Wilson, 22, and 14-year-old Meaghan Tokay, the dog turned his vicious attack on them.
Cooper and Tokay suffered multiple lacerations and puncture wounds while Wilson suffered minor scratches. Another neighbor ran to help.
Joe Goulart said that he heard screams for help and ran up the street and saw a frantic woman yelling at people to stay back as the dog would attack.
Peter Peterson watched the aftermath of Buster’s attack, including the three victims being taken by EMS crews. He said that he is always careful when he sees the pit bull out and keeps his wife inside their house whenever Buster is out. He also said that the owners do keep the dog tied up in the front but he had managed to get loose several times.
Nikki Cagen, a family friend, told reporters that Buster actually belonged to her boyfriend who was away since he was in the military and that she was completely shocked to hear about his attack on the victims as she knew him to be a sweet, gentle dog.
Injuries sustained by all of the three victims of Buster’s attack are not life threatening. Of the three, Cooper sustained the worst injuries – several severe bites.
A month ago, deputies responded to Buster’s house for another bite incident. A member of the family told deputies that they usually kept the dog in a separate room because he was known to exhibit aggressive behavior. This family apparently does not care about anyone but themselves.
RMFW Law and Dog Attack Personal Injury Cases Go Hand in Hand
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to recover damages for any injuries you sustained due to the incident. It can be complicated to determine your legal rights, and it might not be clear who you should file a claim against and what type of damages you are entitled to.
To make sure that you receive the right amount of compensation that covers all the aspects, you should contact a personal injury attorney with experience in handling cases involving dog bites or attacks. Contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280 to find a terrific and notable attorney to handle your case.