Dog owners have a responsibility to make sure their pet does not harm anyone. As such, people who have been negligent at controlling their dogs may find themselves accountable for resulting injuries. In serious dog bite cases, victims may suffer disfigurement, scars, infections, broken bones, tissue loss, and nerve damage. Emotional and psychological trauma is also common in the aftermath of an animal attack, and negative feelings can surface every time victims see dogs.
If a dog caused you or your loved one to suffer severe injuries, consider speaking to a Vermont dog bite lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation that you could use to pay for medical expenses and other damages that someone else’s negligence brought about. Reach out to Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 816-0755 to find out more about your rights to file an injury claim.
Dog Bite Victims Have Legal Rights
A dog attack can be a terrifying encounter for anyone, especially young children. The law recognizes that there needs to be accountability when injuries arise due to the irresponsible actions of dog owners. In Vermont, a dog bite victim can seek compensation from a dog owner who has been negligent, as long as that owner knew or should have known about the dog’s violent tendencies. This generally involves establishing that the pet has a history of aggressive behavior. It is not important if the dog has never bitten someone before.
Establishing Negligence in a Liability Claim
If you wish to bring a civil action claim against a dog owner, you must prove that negligence led to the dog bite and your injury. You can turn to evidence such as photographs, videos, witness statements, medical records, and physical proof to show fault and demonstrate the extent of your injuries and damages. The following are some examples of circumstances that can lead to preventable dog bite attacks and may also indicate negligence:
- The dog was not leashed properly while out in public
- The owner did not secure the dog while on their property
- The owner previously knew about the dog’s dangerous tendencies
In many instances, homeowners will use their insurance to cover dog bite claims. Nevertheless, liability issues can complicate your claim and may prevent you from obtaining fair compensation. Seeking the counsel of a Vermont dog bite lawyer can help protect your legal rights.
Comparative Fault in Vermont
The modified comparative fault rule, 12 V.S.A. § 1036, allows you to recover damages even if you share some of the blame for your injury. However, your percentage of fault must be less than 50 percent, or the court will bar you from collecting compensation. Under the rule, the court will reduce your award according to your degree of fault. So, if the total of your damages is $10,000, but the jury finds you 20 percent at fault, you can only get $8,000.
The comparative fault rule will impact both personal injury trials and settlement negotiations with insurance companies when there is an issue with fault. Be aware that the other party might argue that you were partially responsible for your injury to reduce the amount of your damages or prevent you from collecting anything at all. A Vermont dog bite lawyer can explain more about the allocation of fault and available legal options.
Time Limit for Dog Bite Claims
If you intend to file a dog bite lawsuit or settle a claim in Vermont, you normally have until three years from the date of the incident to do so. Even if there are exceptions to this rule, the statute of limitations applies to most personal injury cases. If you try to bring legal action after the legal deadline, the court will likely refuse to hear your case.
One Bite Rule in Vermont
Although there is no dog bite statute in Vermont, owners can still be liable for injuries their dogs may cause thanks to the state’s “one bite” rule. However, liability will only exist if the owner knows or should have reasonably known that the animal has vicious tendencies yet did not take steps to prevent others from getting hurt. The assumption behind this precedent is that a dog could repeat aggressive acts once it has already done so in the past.
Take note that there need not be an actual bite to alert an owner that a dog has dangerous tendencies. Here are a few examples of past aggressive acts that an owner should have noticed and might be enough to establish liability:
- Chasing people
- Lurching at people
- Unprovoked barking
- Attempts to bite
- Baring teeth menacingly
- Previous bites
It can be challenging to prove that the owner had reason to think that the dog will act violently towards other people. If the owner does not know about their dog’s vicious behavior, they do not have a duty to ensure the safety of others who come into contact with their dog. Even if you can show that the owner already knew that their pet tended to attack, another hurdle to overcome would be proving that they did not take reasonable precautions to protect you. A Vermont dog bite lawyer can conduct a full investigation of your claim and expose liability.
Recoverable Damages for a Dog Bite in Vermont
If a dog owner has been negligent and caused you serious injuries, you may be able to receive compensation for these damages:
- Present and future medical treatment
- Loss of earnings
- Psychological therapy or counseling
- Permanent disfigurement
- Physical and emotional pain
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Understand that it is possible to recover medical expenses in a legal claim even after receiving health insurance payment. You may also have access to punitive damages when the dog owner has recklessly disregarded your safety.
A Vermont Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help with Your Case
After a canine attack, you might have many questions about what you are supposed to do next. Pintas & Mullins Law Firm is here to determine if you have a case for compensation and assist you in bringing a lawsuit against the negligent party or negotiate with insurance companies. To learn more about our free case evaluation, call our office today at (800) 816-0755.