If you look just about anywhere online, you can find some truly great pictures of police dogs playing with their families, or funny memes about K-9 dogs, like this one:
What people often forget, however, is that K-9 dogs are considered officers of the law, even though they’re not human. They undergo training, work with “partners” (called handlers), and if they make a mistake the police department can be held accountable for any injuries you sustain.
Filing a lawsuit against a government agency can be complicated
If you are bitten by a neighbor’s dog, you have up to six years to file a lawsuit against that neighbor to collect damages for your injuries. Suing a city or a government agency, however, is much different. For example, if you were injured by a K-9 dog from the North Dakota State Highway Patrol or Minot PD, you may only have 180 days to file a claim.
Complications when proving “duty to care”
In dog bite cases, courts determine whether or not the owner owed the victim a “duty to care.” If you throw a frisbee into your neighbor’s yard and attempt to retrieve it, and the neighbor’s dog bites you, you may not be owed the same care as if you were jogging and a dog attacks you. With K-9 dogs, that “duty to care” concept may not apply if the dog is acting in its official capacity – especially if you are the person who has committed a crime.
However, what if you are an innocent bystander, or if the K-9 dog continues to attack you even after its handler has called for it to cease? In this case, you may be able to make a claim for excessive force.
This is why we say that K-9 bite claims are complicated; they really do depend on the exact circumstances of your case. Furthermore, because North Dakota doesn’t have any specific dog bite statutes, there may be no clear “owner” of the dog: it could be the city, the handler, or both. This can also complicate the issue.
Why you should seek medical attention after a dog bite
Any injury involving puncture wounds should be treated by a medical doctor. Dog saliva, despite what you may have heard, contains harmful bacteria. One such bacterium is Capnocytophaga, which can lead to flu-like symptoms that evolve into life-threatening sepsis, tissue necrosis and/or gangrene. Dog bites can also lead to rabies. Without immediate medical attention, rabies is almost always fatal.
Other serious injuries can include:
- Crushing injuries
- Broken bones
- Loss of fingers or hands
- Permanent damage to the eyes
- Brain injuries if the attack causes you to fall
- Nerve damage
You should really seek medical attention as soon as possible after the dog bite, if you can. If you cannot, do not let it wait too long; infections can fester, and some injuries can get worse over time if you leave them untreated.
When should I call a lawyer?
Call a lawyer after you have seen a doctor, so your injury attorney knows exactly what types of injuries you have sustained, and what the prescribed course of medical treatment will be. Bring along a copy of your medical records, the police report, and anything that relates to your inability to do your job. If the dog tore your clothing, you should keep that, too; a resealable plastic bag should suffice to keep it safe.
Dog bite injuries can be very serious, and filing a claim for damages can get complicated. This is especially true if the biter is a K-9 dog. Larson Law Firm, P.C. can help you through the process. To schedule your free consultation in our Minot or Bismarck office, please call 701-484-4878 or fill out our contact form.