The majority of dogs truly earn their nickname as “Man’s best friend,” but there are some that can be aggressive and unpredictable.
Unfortunately, dog bites and attacks happen with alarming frequency in the US, according to statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association:
● More than 4.5 million people are bitten every year;
● Of these 800,000 victims require medical attention; and,
● For 337,000 dog bite victims, that medical attention is a visit to the emergency room.
What these statistics don’t reveal is the devastating losses for victims. Beyond the excruciating physical pain and costly medical bills, there can be financial, emotional, and psychological consequences.
Fortunately, state laws in both Arkansas and Mississippi protect dog bite victims by allowing them to seek compensation for these losses. The claims process can be complicated, however, so it’s important to work with an experienced dog bite lawyer to ensure protection of your legal rights. You may also find it useful to review some important information about these cases.
How Dog Bite Claims Work
Instead of enacting a statute, Mississippi and neighboring Arkansas generally follow the “one bite rule” developed by case precedent. This means the dog’s owner can be liable if a victim can prove:
- The dog had previously show signs of aggression or dangerous propensities;
- The owner knew of these hazards or reasonably should have known about them; and,
- The dog’s owner knew or reasonably should have predicted that it would bite.
However, there are other theories of liability that may allow you to file a claim under certain circumstances. They include:
Negligence: Many personal injury cases are based upon negligence, where a person breaches a legal duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. In a dog bite claim, this duty applies if the owner doesn’t take proper precautions to secure the animal.
Local Ordinances: Though there may be no statute on the books in Mississippi or Arkansas, some county, municipal, or other local authorities may have enacted regulations regarding dangerous animals. Often, there are leash laws or rules requiring animal owners to ensure their pets are secured by fencing or other barriers. Violations of these laws may not automatically lead to a win in a dog bite case, but they’re solid proof that the animal’s owner didn’t maintain a secure premises.
Calculating the Amount You Can Sue for a Dog Bite
The answer to the question “how much can I sue for a dog bite case” revolves around the harm you suffer. You experience physical, financial, and emotional losses. Though there’s no way to go back in time, personal injury laws in Mississippi and Arkansas are intended to put you in the same position you’d be if the dog bite never happened. Your compensation falls into two categories.
1. Economic Damages: There are some losses that you can quantify in dollar amounts, often because they’re represented by documentation or out-of-pocket costs. Economic damages may include:
● Medical Costs: Dog bites can lead to devastating injuries, often requiring cosmetic surgery, emergency treatment, and care for serious infections. Plus, there are psychological implications that may require treatment by specialists. Children are especially vulnerable, since they can carry debilitating emotional fear of dogs.
● Lost Wages: In severe cases, you may need to take time off work to recover from dog bite injuries. You’ll lose income and potential business opportunities.
2. Non-Economic Damages: These losses are more difficult to quantify because you won’t have receipts or paperwork that reflects how your dog bite injuries affect your life. Still, you most certainly sustain losses. Examples include:
● Pain and suffering;
● Emotional and psychological distress;
● Scarring and disfigurement;
● Losses that affect your relationships with loved ones; and,
● Many others, depending on your specific circumstances.
In many dog bite cases, your first step would be filing a claim with the insurance company for the dog’s owner – under a homeowner’s or business insurance policy. There can be considerable challenges in dealing with an insurer, since these companies are businesses motivated by profits.
You could face pushback with your claim, and you may not get the compensation you deserve by law. Under such circumstances, you may need to file a lawsuit in civil court. Retaining an attorney is critical to protecting your interests, as the statutes, case law, and court procedural rules can be complicated.
Defenses Available for Dog Owners
Though you may be able to prove the essential elements of a dog bite case, there are some legal concepts that affect your rights in a dog bite case. First, every state has a statute of limitations on personal injury cases.
In both Mississippi and Arkansas, this time restriction is three years. The clock starts running the date of the animal attack incident, and it’s a strict deadline. If you don’t file a lawsuit within this timeframe, you’re forever barred from recovering compensation for your losses.
Additional defenses that may affect your claim include:
● Trespassing: If you’re on someone else’s property when you’re attacked or bitten by a dog, you cannot seek monetary damages. Your presence is illegal, so you’re not protected by dog bite laws.
● Provoking: You cannot recover compensation if your own conduct led the animal to bite or attack you.
Schedule a Consultation with a Mississippi and Arkansas Dog Bite Attorney
You can suffer considerable losses as the victim of a dog bite or other animal attack, but your focus should be on recovering from your injuries. Leave the complicated legal issues to a skilled dog bite lawyer who has extensive knowledge of the state laws and cases that affect your claim.
To learn more about your rights, please contact Harris Law Firm, PLLC to set up a no-cost case evaluation with an experienced attorney. We can explain more about your legal options after reviewing the details of your claim. Our team serves injury victims throughout Western Mississippi and Eastern Arkansas from our offices in Greenville, MS, and we’re happy to help you get the compensation you deserve.