Although animal-attack claims most commonly involve dog bites, many other types of domesticated animals, such as ferrets, cats, and even birds, can also bite humans. Even nondomesticated animals, such as large cats ordinarily found in the wild, but owned by some people as pets have been known to attack children and adults. An owner’s liability for injuries caused by his or her pet, if any, will vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A lawyer from our firm who is experienced in handling personal injury claims is an excellent source for accurate advice and information if you have been injured in animal attack.
Proving Owners’ Liability in Animal Attack Cases
To succeed in most animal attack cases, the injured person must prove that the animal that caused the injury was owned and kept by the defendant. In the past, the injured person was also required to show that the owner knew or should have known that his or her animal was dangerous, mischievous, vicious, or prone to such threatening behaviors. Under current law, however, when it is proven that an owner was somehow negligent, such as by not properly restraining or containing the animal, the injured person may often recover damages without proving the animal’s viciousness.
An owner of an animal may be found liable under any circumstances in which he or she had knowledge of the animal’s viciousness but failed to act in order to prevent injuries to others. Accordingly, if an animal exhibits vicious or uncontrollable behavior, the owner should take steps to shield the public from the animal. For example, if an individual owns a pit bull with a propensity to attack and bite without provocation, the owner should probably keep the dog indoors and, while outside, in a yard from which it cannot escape. If he or she does not adhere to these common-sense guidelines and the animal attacks, the injured party may be able to recover his or her damages.
Those who keep animals generally considered wild, such as lions, bears, and monkeys, are typically liable for injuries caused by such animals regardless of whether the particular animal is known to be dangerous. Because wild animals are generally presumed to have a natural tendency to revert to their wild mannerisms no matter how well trained or domesticated, owners of such animals are often said to be “strictly liable” for any injuries caused by their wild animals. However, strict liability may not apply if the animal injures someone while it is confined or restrained on its owner’s property, but this is a factually dependent argument that will not apply in every case.
In some states, it is not always necessary for the animal to actually bite or attack the victim to hold the owner liable for an injury. For example, a pedestrian who breaks his or ankle in a frightened attempt to get away from a fenced in dog’s snapping, barking, or other aggressive behavior, may nonetheless be able to sue the dog’s owner successfully if he or she can show that the actions of the dog led to the injury.
Defenses to Liability in Animal Attack Cases
People who are injured in animal attacks are not always entitled to recover damages. If the injured person provoked the animal, for instance, recovery may be denied. Similarly, if a pet owner informs his or her neighbor that his or her pet parrot is not friendly and should not be touched, but the neighbor does not heed this warning and is thereafter pecked or bitten, recovery may be denied. If the owner merely stated that the parrot was not always friendly, on the other hand, but still encouraged the neighbor to pet it, the owner could likely be liable.
People who are injured by an animal while on the owner’s property are generally unable to recover if they are trespassing at the time of the attack. In many states, in order to successfully bring suit under a dog bite statute, the injured person must show that he or she was lawfully in the place where the injury occurred. If injured person was a trespasser at the time of the attack, the animal’s owner may not be liability for injuries caused by his or her animal. If, for example, someone jumps over a fence into an enclosed junkyard with “Beware of Dog” warnings posted and taunts the German shepherd guard dog with a stick, the junkyard owner may not be liable if the dog bites the trespasser.
Persons injured by biting or attacking animals should seek the counsel of a personal injury lawyer who can explain the complexities of their case and provide guidance through the legal system. If you or someone you know has suffered personal injuries as a result of an animal attack, an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer at our firm can advise you on whether you may have a claim against the animal’s owner and can help you pursue the maximum damages to which you are entitled.
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