The Legal and Financial Consequences of a Catastrophic Dog Bite

The Legal and Financial Consequences of a Catastrophic Dog BiteFargo is a pretty pet-friendly city. You can find people with their dogs all over the town – at local bars and restaurants, in hotels, on walks through downtown. Since the city caters to dog owners (did you know that Element provides luxury dog beds?), the chances are good that you’ll run into the canine companions pretty frequently. Now, common sense will tell you not to touch a strange dog – even one that appears friendly. But not everyone follows common sense, and thanks to TikTok and Twitter, even grown adults seems to think it’s okay to just run up on a dog a pet it. It’s not safe to do this, nor is it good for the dogs. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the number of dog bites have been increasing over the years.

If you – or more likely, your child – are bitten by a dog, you can make a claim for compensation. And if it’s your dog who attacks someone, there can (and likely will) be consequences.

Legal consequences of a dog bite

Here in North Dakota, dog owners can be held liable for any damages caused by their dogs, whether or not they knew their dog was aggressive. These rulings are generally based on the 1976 court case Sendelbach v. Grad, and applies to both first and subsequent bites – meaning the owner can be held responsible even if the dog has never shown vicious behavior in the past.

For a successful case, the victim must prove negligence. In other words, the injured party must demonstrate three points:

  1. The dog’s owner had a duty to prevent it from causing injuries to others
  2. The owner failed to live up to that duty
  3. That breach of duty directly caused your injuries and losses

There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if the dog bite victim was trespassing or committing a crime at the time of the attack, the owner may not be held liable for damages. Or, if the victim provoked the dog into biting them, the owner again may not be held liable. However, the burden of proof is on the dog owner to show that the victim was at fault. In cases of children, this may be difficult to prove.

Financial consequences of a dog bite

The financial consequences of a dog bite can be substantial, for both the dog owner and the victim. After a successful lawsuit, the owner of the dog may be required to pay significant damages to the victim, including:

  • Medical expenses, current and future
  • Lost wages, current and future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring and disfigurement

The owner’s insurance policy may cover this, but rest assured our attorneys will determine all liable parties and work to ensure you secure compensation for your losses. In some cases, they may be required to pay your legal fees and court costs, which can add up quickly.

What types of injuries are caused by dog bites?

Dog bites can cause a wide range of injuries, some minor and some extremely severe. Common injuries resulting from dog bites include:

  • Puncture wounds and lacerations. Dogs have very sharp teeth that can puncture the skin and cause cuts and lacerations, which can lead to blood loss and scarring, as well as infections.
  • Soft tissue injuries. Dog bites can damage tissues, muscles, and ligaments, resulting in pain, swelling, and loss of motion.
  • Bone fractures. Dogs also have very strong jaws, and can even crush bones, particularly in the hands, arms, and legs.
  • Infections. A dog’s mouth is full of bacteria, making the risk of infection from a bite very high. Rabies may be the most well-known animal-transmitted infection, but dogs can also transmit staph and strep. They can also transmit Capnocytophaga bacteria which can lead to heart attacks, kidney failure, and limb loss if left untreated.
  • Nerve damage. A bite can also cause nerve damage, which can cause numbness, tingling, or even paralysis in the affected area.
  • Emotional trauma. Being bitten by a dog can cause anxiety, distress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When the victim is a child – as the majority of victims are – the injuries can be especially devastating. Toddlers are often face-to-face with the dog, which can lead to skull fractures, orbital fractures, loss of vision, and facial scarring and disfigurement. Correcting this type of injury may require multiple surgeries. In fact, surgical intervention is necessary in about 17% of all childhood dog bite cases – just under one in five. Because surgery comes with its own risks for small children, this already-severe injury can end up being far worse. In cases where the disfigurement is severe enough to warrant reconstructive surgery, parents may be forced to pay out-of-pocket to treat their child, if their insurance doesn’t cover it.

All of this is to say that dog bites are serious business.

Preventing dog bites in Fargo

The best way to avoid legal and financial consequences from dog bites is to prevent them altogether. Dog owners must keep their dogs under control and prevent them from running at large. Further, dogs that aren’t under control are more likely to bite, which is why owners can be held liable for damages they cause.

Ways in which owners can help prevent their dogs from biting include:

  • Socializing their dogs from a young age
  • Teaching dogs to interact with people and other animals
  • Training dogs to obey basic commands
  • Using positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior
  • Supervising their dogs at all time
  • Keeping them leashed or in a fenced yard
  • Never leaving a dog unattended in public
  • Never letting a dog interact with a stranger without supervision
  • Being aware of their dog’s body language and recognize signs of aggression

When encountering a new or strange dog, remember these tips:

  • Be aware of the dog’s body language – do not approach a growling, barking, or dog with a tense or stiff posture.
  • Ask the owner’s permission before approaching a dog.
  • Avoid sudden movements and avoid eye contact.
  • Don’t disturb a dog that’s eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
  • If a dog is off-leash or in public, give it space.

If you are bitten by a dog, seek medical attention immediately and document your injuries. Report the incident to local animal control and consider contacting a Fargo dog bite attorney who can explain your options. It’s important to understand your rights in these situations, especially if you or your child have suffered severe injuries.

The team at Larson Law wants to help if you or a family member is bitten by a dog. We understand the laws and regulations surrounding dog bites in North Dakota, and can help you seek the maximum compensation for your severe injuries. Let us work to hold negligent dog owners responsible when their actions cause you harm. Schedule a free consultation today by calling our offices or filling out our contact form. We maintain offices in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo.