The newspaper has a story today about a 60-year-old Southern California man who was mauled to death by two pit bulls. Seems the man was standing in his own back yard having a cigarette when the attack occurred. These dogs belonged to his grandson, and the victim was familiar with the dogs. Neither dog had been neutered.
Perhaps these dogs were radical non-smokers. Doubt it, though. But this is certainly a story of a family tragedy. But, if you have one or more dogs at your home, you could have a tragedy waiting to happen.
Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are the two most fatal attackers. Next are the Akita and Chow. Dogs that are tied up are very dangerous, and male un-neutered dogs are the most dangerous.
Dog bite law is an unusual area of the law, and can affect you and your home or business quite negatively if you own a dog. How?
Depending upon your circumstances, you could be subject to both civil and criminal charges if your dog bites someone. Compare that to having the postman slip and fall on your sidewalk, which could only involve simple negligence on your part.
The law consists of both civil and criminal law, and varies widely between state and local jurisdictions. The reason it varies is the interpretation of the old “One-Bite Rule.” That rule, with its basis in English common law, protects a dog owner until he gains knowledge that his dog is vicious or dangerous. Once the owner learns this, he becomes strictly liable for injuries the dog causes.
Most all states hold the dog owner liable if injuries are caused by negligent handling, or violating a leash law. In almost two-thirds of the states, the owner is statutorily liable, meaning he is liable simply because he owns the dog.
Here are six tips on what to do after your dog bites someone:
1. Stay calm and be nice to the victim. Don’t argue about who is at fault. Don’t accuse the victim of anything. Remember that this person is going to make a decision now about whether to hire a lawyer to sue you.
2. Take the victim to a doctor or hospital and get medical attention. Pay for it yourself, no matter whether you have insurance or not.
3. Take precautions to protect other people from your dog.
4. Secure the name, address and phone number of ALL witnesses to the incident.
5. Do not make ANY statements to ANYONE but your own attorney about the incident.
6. Call your homeowners, renters or business insurance company and immediately report the incident. If the victim decides to pursue a damage claim against you, the insurance company will likely have to provide legal counsel and defend you in the lawsuit. If you do not report the incident right away, they might deny your claim for late reporting.
When you’re shopping for new insurance, most insurance companies will ask you the breed of the dog you own. Most insurers will either charge you higher rates for certain breeds, or refuse to insure you at all.
If you’re interested in reading more about dog bite law, go to the website of Attorney Kenneth Phillips at: www.dogbitelaw.com
Kenneth Phillips is the nation’s leading authority on dog bite law. His Beverly Hills, California law practice is unique in that he only represents dog bite victims. Mr. Phillips has done hundreds of radio and TV interviews, and featured in scores of print articles over the years. He represents clients all over the United States.
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