Tennessee Animal Attack Lawyers
According to State Farm Insurance, dog bite victims suffer over $1 billion in monetary losses every year. If you believe you have suffered economic harm as a result of a dog bite, contact our experienced attorneys today.
Dog and Animal Attacks in Tennessee – An Overview
Annually, millions of Americans are bitten by animals. In fact, in 1994, over 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs alone. In many cases, a person bitten by a dog may have the right to recover damages from the animal’s owner or another responsible party.
If You are Bitten by a Dog or Domestic Animal
First, you should seek medical attention immediately and call our law firm. If you are not treated, a dog bite can cause serious injury or fatality. Once you have been medically treated, you should also consider consulting with a lawyer skilled in animal bite cases. Our law firm will be able to tell you whether you have a legal claim, and what damages you may be able to recover.
An attorney will ask you for information about the details surrounding your animal bite. At the least, you should provide the name and phone number of the animal’s owner. If you don’t have this information, a neighbor or a witness might be able to help you. Also, if there were witnesses, you should gather their names and contact information as well.
Owner Liability for Dog Bites
If a dog bites you, you will need to know who is the owner of the animal. In Tennessee, the owner of a dog can be held responsible for the injuries it inflicts, provided that the owner knew (or had reason to know) that the animal had “dangerous propensities.” In other words, if a dog owner knows that his or her animal is dangerous and could cause harm to an individual, the animal owner can be held liable for the animal’s harmful actions.
Determining whether an owner knew of an animal’s “dangerous propensities” can be hard. The first question that often arises in making this determination is whether the owner knew of the particular animal’s potential for harm, or whether the owner only knew that type of animal is potentially harmful. For example, when someone has a pit bull as a pet, does that mean the owner knows or should know the pet will be harmful, just because, in general, pit bulls can be harmful?
Most courts have said that a dog owner is responsible for both the particular and general potential for his animal to cause harm. Thus, even if a pit bull owner had never seen his pet act violently, he might still be liable for an attack by the dog because of the propensity of pit bulls in general to be dangerous animals. In such a situation, the owner is said to have “constructive notice” of the animal’s harmful propensities.
Additionally, sometimes an animal’s harmful nature may be inferred from the circumstances of the attack. For instance, if a trained guard dog attacks someone, a judge or court could say that the owner knew or should have known the dog would attack someone who entered the guarded area.
Potential Defenses in Dog Bite Cases
There are times when an owner of a vicious animal might try to block responsibility for an attack by the animal. For example, if the animal owner let others know that the dog was dangerous, and took measures to keep the animal restrained, a person who ignored the owner’s warnings and was hurt by the animal might not successfully sue the owner. In legal terms, the injured person’s actions are known as “contributory negligence” or “assumption of the risk.” An injured person is contributorily negligent when he or she is careless with his or her safety that an ordinarily prudent person would be aware of under similar circumstances. For example, if a person climbs over a fence and is hurt by a dog on the other side, a jury could decide not to hold the dog owner liable if they believed that a normal person would not have done so.
A dog owner might also be innocent if the injured person “assumed the risk” of an attack by the animal. If the owner can prove the person bitten by his or her animal had actual knowledge of the risk of danger from the animal, but voluntarily submitted to that risk, a court can bar the injured person from recovering damages. For example, if the owner puts up a “Beware of Dog” sign, and a person ignores this sign and gets bitten by the dog, the owner might not be liable for that person’s injury. If the animal owner is claiming either “assumption of risk” or “contributory negligence,” however, the owner has the burden of convincing the jury otherwise.
A dog owner can also argue that the injured party provoked the animal, and this may be a way for the owner to avoid responsibility. For example, if a person makes a threatening gesture toward an animal, and the animal attacks, this could throw out the owner’s liability.
The relationship between the owner and the person attacked can also affect the owner’s liability. For example, if the owner invites someone over to his/her property, and the invited person (known legally as an “invitee”) is injured, the owner can be held responsible if he/she did not warn the invitee of the potential risks. On the other hand, if someone is trespassing on the owner’s property, the owner will probably not be responsible for animal bites sustained by the trespasser (unless the injury is intentionally caused by the owner).
Other Potential Responsible Parties
Animal owners are not the only people who can be blamed for animal bites. Here are a few common scenarios where someone other than a dog owner could be held accountable for a dog bite:
Animal Keepers: Anyone who is responsible for the care or custody of a dog may be considered an owner or keeper and can be held responsible for a dog bite. Examples include kennels, a pound, or a dog sitter.
Parents of Minors: Even if a person under 18 years of age owns the animal at issue, in many states, an injured person can bring a legal claim against the minor’s parents, even if the parents had no involvement with the animal.
Property Owners: A property owner can be liable for injuries caused by a dog the property owner has allowed onto his or her property.
Landlords: If an apartment landlord knew (or should have known) that a tenant owned a dangerous animal, the landlord may also be liable for animal bite injuries.
What Damages Can You Recover?
Depending on the seriousness of the injuries caused by the dog attack, you may be entitled to recover for:
Scarring and disfigurement
Pain and suffering
In some cases, you may also win punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish someone for his or her actions. To justify an award of punitive damages, the wrongdoer’s behavior usually must be more than careless, such as reckless or intentional conduct. For example, if a dog owner knew his dog was very dangerous, yet repeatedly allowed the dog to roam near a school, and the dog hurt a child, a jury could conclude that punitive damages were appropriate. The amount of punitive damages is not necessarily related to the actual damages one sustains but, rather, to how bad the owners actions were.
If a dog or other animal has bitten you, you may be receive damages as a result of this injury. Determining your legal rights, however, can be tricky. It may be unclear who you should bring a claim against, and to what sort of damages you can claim. To ensure that you receive just compensation, you should consider contacting a skilled attorney who has dealt with animal bite cases before.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a dog bite or other animal related injury, please call our lawyers today. We offer free reviews and work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee unless we successfully settle your case.