Personal injury attorney Craig Murphy has created the Las Vegas Dog Bite Guide to help Nevada residents who were seriously injured by a dog bite or dog attack. Call today for a free consultation.
Dogs can be the best companion animals for people who love pets. They have their own personalities and quickly become beloved by the whole family. But when you encounter a dog that is mean and dangerous, you can be a victim of a vicious dog attack. The injuries that you can sustain following a brutal attack can be lifelong and severe. Getting the compensation for these attacks can be difficult and having an excellent and experienced Las Vegas personal injury attorney on your team can mean all the difference in the world. With the help of an expert, you can see the compensation that you deserve.
Dog Bites and Dog Attacks
Every spring in the United States we observed “National Dog Bite Prevention Week.” Though many may not have heard of this campaign veterinarians and animal-rights activists across the country continue to reserve the second week of April each year to raise awareness about the dangers of contact with dangerous canines. We may love our dogs, treating them as members of the family, but dog bites are serious matters that can unfortunately transcend the bonds we share with pets.
Dog bites are a far more common mishap than most people think, with thousands of cases occurring each year. While responsible pet owners take extra precautions to ensure that their dogs remain peaceful and obedient around others, many less conscientious individuals allow their dogs to become vicious, often leading to tragic results. If you or your loved ones have been injured due to a dog attack in the Las Vegas area, pursuing legal action may be the only way for you to fully recover from the incident. We have years of experience consulting victims of dog bites and dog attacks in Nevada. We have put together some responses to frequently asked questions that will help you decide which steps to take and how to hire the best Las Vegas dog bite attorney for you.
How Common Are Dog Bites in Las Vegas?
There are about 1,000 reported dog bite incidents each year in Clark County. Between 2003 and 2009, for example, 6,798 dog bites occurred across Clark County. The majority of these cases happened in Las Vegas, the largest city in both Clark County and Nevada. About seven dog bites occur each day in Clark County. While only a small number of attacks each year result in death, residents of Las Vegas, Henderson, and the rest of Clark County should bear in mind that dog bites and dog attacks remain a widespread problem.
What Should I Know if I Was Recently Bitten by a Dog?
The most important fact about dog bite cases is that, far more often than not, the person who was bitten is not at fault. Some cases do involve a dog acting in a dangerous manner in response to abuse, and these cases are likelier to put the blame on the person who chose to mistreat and provoked the dog, but situations such as these make up only a fraction of all the dog bite cases each year. Instead, the majority of cases center on innocent people who were bitten by dogs that were improperly supervised by their owners. The dog as well as the dog’s owner will almost certainly be held at fault, but the degree to which either is responsible vary significantly.
Following a dog bite, your chief concern should be seeking medical attention as soon as you are safe. Speaking with or even attempting to locate the dog’s owner is also critical; the owner’s reaction to the incident can speak volumes and potentially strengthen your claim later in your case. You should collect the contact information of any and all witnesses, and reporting the event to the police and animal control is necessary. Once you have communicated with law enforcement and animal control and receive care from a doctor or emergency medical clinic, you can call a dog bite attorney in order to learn about how to proceed.
Are There Any Steps That I Can Take to Prevent a Dog Bite or Attack?
One of the most basic steps in reducing the likelihood of a dog bite or attack is to stay cautious around larger dogs, as multiple studies have shown that only a few breeds of dogs are behind the lion’s share of dog bite related fatalities. Dogs belonging to these breeds are not inherently vicious, but they may appear more threatening due to their size and strength. Depending on the studies cited, pit bulls and pit-bull mixes cause between 25% and 60% of all deaths from dog bites and attacks. Rottweilers ranked next, albeit as a distant second; roughly one in seven dog bite fatalities stem from an attack by a Rottweiler. Other breeds that are frequently responsible for dog bite related deaths are German shepherds, huskies, American bulldogs, and bull mastiffs.
It is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation, and most dogs from these breeds will never show any sort of violent tendencies. Victims often blame a dog’s breed rather than more relevant factors that lead to an attack or incident. This is why breeds are frequently included as the reason behind the attacks. The science, however, disagrees. State Farm Insurance has even noted that there is frequent misidentification of dog breeds during attacks, and breed-specific legislation has not proven effective at curbing dog bites. Nevertheless, maintaining a safe distance from the inherently larger dogs of the above breeds, especially if the dogs do not appear to be supervised or securely leashed, may lower the risk of an attack.
Dog owners, particularly those who own a dog belonging to one of the above breeds, must take proper care of their pets if they want to avoid involvement in a lawsuit. They should not choose a dog with a temperament that is unlikely to be compatible with the owner’s home environment; residents of apartment buildings and big cities, for example, should think twice before adopting large dogs that need ample space. Dog owners should not wrestle, antagonize, or act cruelly toward their pets, as any combination of these actions can exacerbate a dog’s viciousness.
What Does the Law Say About Dog Bites in Las Vegas?
The laws of most states in the United States feature “dog bite statutes,” which placed dog owners at fault for almost every instance of damage or injury that their dogs cause. Nevada, however, is an exception. Instead, dog bites and attacks in Las Vegas fall under the “one bite” rule, which does not hold an owner accountable for a dog’s first bite. This first bite, though, establishes precedents for any future attacks. If your injuries resulted from an altercation with a dog that has previously bitten others or exhibited a tendency for violence, the dog’s owner will likely be held accountable.
Following a dog bite attack, you may worry that your injury may not be significant enough to warrant legal action. We are well aware that every bite deserves attention, and it is our pledge to help you receive the compensation that you deserve. Contact our office today if you have any questions or concerns about how to respond to injuries that you or a loved one suffered as a result of a dog bite or dog attack in Las Vegas.
Frequently Asked Questions | Las Vegas Dog Bite Guide
Steps You Need to Take After a Dog Bite
Number one, you have to get the medical treatment that you need right away. Then you must call Animal Control. You have to make sure that they get out there and investigate this, and make sure that this dog doesn’t have rabies. You’re probably going to need to be seen by a plastic surgeon because you’re going to have serious scarring that needs to be taken care of. You need to contact a Las Vegas dog bite attorney because depending on what the circumstances are, there is evidence that is going to have to be preserved about what happened.
Unfortunately, when you hear dog bite, people automatically think a dog nipped somebody. What we usually see is a very significant attack with significant damages. There are a lot of aspects to these cases that must be analyzed. You need a Las Vegas attorney to get involved right from the beginning.
Typical Dog Bite Injuries
Obviously the first injuries that everybody is going to know is where you are bitten or attacked, there may be significant scarring. There may be the necessity for plastic surgery. There could be nerve damage. There could be muscle damage that is never going to go away. Here is the aspect that is often overlooked: the emotional damage, especially if it’s a young child who has been attacked. They may have post-traumatic stress for the rest of their life. They may have a fear of all dogs for the rest of their life, and they will never be able to get over it. They may never be able to own a dog. They may never be able to be comfortable around a dog. This is a life-long injury, and if you don’t have somebody who is accustomed to dealing with these claims and making a full evaluation of what is really involved, you may be doing yourself a disservice.
What Questions Should I Ask the Dog Owner?
If you’ve been seriously attacked by a dog and there are significant injuries, there are a few things you need to find out from the owner. Number one, you need to find out if that dog has previously shown any tendencies or indication that it would attack and bite someone. Typically, that might mean that there are reports out there that the dog has previously bit someone. If that’s what the case is, they could be in serious trouble.
You want to contact the Department of Animal Control. You want to make a report, get them out there to make an investigation, because they may have prior incidents relating to this. You also need to know if there’s insurance. Is this a homeowner? If so, who is their insurance company? If they’re a renter in an apartment, you need to know if they have renter’s insurance and whether that renter’s insurance covers their animals. Your homeowner’s insurance may cover you or your family members if you’re at someone else’s house and their animal attacks you.
There are various aspects of this case that must be investigated, but the information that you really need to know is whether there have been previous instances of dog bites or behavior that would indicate that this animal had these tendencies and what insurance is available to compensate for these types of damages.
How Do I Choose a Dog Bite Attorney?
In a personal injury case, you need to have a close relationship with your attorney. You’re going to be working together as a team, and oftentimes these cases can take a couple of years to get resolved. You have to have a good working relationship with that attorney. You need to know that that attorney is in your corner, and they’re looking out for your best interests. You can’t just get any lawyer, and you don’t want an attorney who is so busy and has so many files that they can’t return your calls and they don’t even know who you are.
The best way to go about finding the right and best attorney for a dog bite case, or any other type of personal injury case, is this: you need to know that they have the experience to handle this type of case. The way that you do that is you talk to them and ask them what type of experience they have with these kinds of cases. Number two, you make sure that they are a board certified personal injury specialist by the State Bar of Nevada and the Nevada Justice Association. Number three, call several attorneys and review them.
Here’s what you’re going to find when you call most law firms: you talk to an intake person, they take all your information, and they say come on in. You’ll be assigned a case worker and you may never even meet an attorney. You may not know who your attorney is. You need an attorney who’s going to know you and understand you, and who you can communicate with so that they know the full extent of the injuries and damages that you have sustained.
The only way that you can determine that is by talking to a number of attorneys and figuring out who you connect with, and who you think is really going to have your best interests at heart. If that attorney cannot give you the time of day when they’re working to get you as a client, how are they going to treat you afterwards? That is the secret to hiring the best attorney for your case, no matter what kind of case it is.
How Do You Qualify a Dog Bite Case?
Here are the questions that need to be answered in analyzing this question. Number one, what type of animal was it? What type of dog was it? There are certain types of breeds that automatically fall within the vicious animal category, and you will be entitled to get recovery or make a claim against them regardless of what has happened with that animal in the past. Dogs that are not in the category of vicious dogs may, for whatever reason, bite, and attack someone.
If that dog has never shown any propensities for having violence and for having bit someone before, you may not have a claim. If it’s your child who was bit, and let’s say that dog’s food dish is right there, and your child is interfering with that dog eating, you may not necessarily have a claim, and the insurance company is going to fight it. You need an attorney to investigate these claims and find out what the legal precedent is and what the legal analysis is to establish responsibility, so that you can get compensation for your or your child’s injuries from being attacked by a dog.
What Makes a Good Dog Bite Case?
What makes a good personal injury case in Nevada is something that is often not good for you, the injured person. That means that the injuries and damages are quite significant. For there to be a “good” dog bite or personal injury case, there must be damages measured by the extent of the injuries. In a dog bite case, that means that there is going to be a significant bite, there’s going to be scarring, and there are going to be injuries, damages and medical treatment that require quite a bit of care.
The other thing that makes a “good” dog bit case is there has to be liability. In other words, this must be an attack from a type of dog that is known to have propensities for biting and there has to be insurance coverage. There are many cases where there are unbelievable damages; very unfortunate damages. It could be a young child that is mauled and even killed by a dog. If there’s not insurance coverage there to cover that, no matter how much the damages are, there’s nothing to collect.
It’s much like any other type of significant and severe case. You must have negligence, someone has to be responsible, and you have to have damages and injuries that are significant. Then you must have someone, whether it’s an insurance company or someone who has significant assets, be able to adequately compensate you for your injuries.
Is the Dog Owner Responsible for the Attack?
If you have been attacked and injured by a dog, you’re going to want to know if the owner is responsible for that, under Nevada law. The answer to that question depends on the history of that animal. If that dog has attacked and bit someone before, then you have a legitimate claim against that owner. However, if that dog has never shown any violent tendencies or propensities in the past, has never attacked anybody, then under Nevada law, that owner may not be responsible to you, unless it is an animal that is a dangerous or vicious animal. Typically, we all know pit bulls have a tendency, in that breed, to be known to attack. So, no matter how nice that pit bull is and if it hasn’t attacked other people in the past, you may have a claim.
If someone has trained their dog to be an attack guard dog, there may be responsibility, even though that dog has never attacked anybody before. The only way to make a real determination of whether someone is responsible for your injuries from a dog attack is to contact an attorney and do what is necessary to fully investigate the claim and make that determination
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
If the dog that attacked you was in a house, typically the homeowner’s insurance will cover that. Now, even though the homeowner’s insurance will cover it, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to pay. Insurance companies and insurance adjusters often fight these claims. The reason they do is that they know they can go back and look at the history and try and say that this dog has no history, and no indication that it would bite someone. In Nevada, it’s a one-bite free state. In other words, if there is a dog and the owner doesn’t know that it has a propensity or an inclination to bite someone, then they get a free bite.
That may not be true if you’ve got a pit bull or a rottweiler, or an animal that is known to have vicious tendencies due to the breed, but if you’re talking about a Labrador retriever, there may be an issue. I tell anyone who asks me questions about a dog bite case is that you really need to talk to an attorney who has handled these cases and knows the ins and the outs of these types of cases because they can become very complex. There are a number of defenses that are available to the insurance company, and just because you were bitten, doesn’t automatically mean that there’s going to be insurance coverage.
What Happens if the Dog Owner Doesn’t Have insurance?
Asking about an uninsured dog bite owner is a common question because oftentimes, someone may be a renter, or they don’t have homeowner’s insurance and there’s no insurance coverage for them to cover for their dog that attacked you. What can you do?
First of all, if you have health insurance, your health insurance is responsible for taking care of the treatment. You’ve got to get the treatment for that injury taken care of. There may be muscle damage, or nerve damage. There may be reconstructive or plastic surgery that is necessary, especially if it’s a bite to the face, or the arms, or somewhere that scarring can be severe. All of that can be covered under your health insurance.
However, what are you going to do about the injuries, the long-term effects of this? Is there any type of insurance that may cover that? It’s possible that your homeowner’s insurance may afford you some coverage for this, but there’s no way of knowing that unless someone does a full review of your insurance policy.
Is a Property Owner Also Responsible for a Dog Attack?
When someone is attacked by a dog who is owned by someone renting, and that person doesn’t have insurance, but there are serious injuries, you want to know, “Is the landlord responsible for this attack?” Under Nevada law, the unfortunate answer is no, the owner of that property is typically not going to be responsible.
There may be certain, specific instances where there may be special knowledge that the property owner has, and that they’ve overlooked, that may create responsibility on their behalf. For example, that dog has attacked numerous people on other occasions and complaints have been made to the property owner, and the property owner doesn’t make them get rid of the vicious animal or evict them. Perhaps under those circumstances, the property owner could be responsible, but it is something that is going to take a very specific investigation and specific proof.
You need a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with these types of claims to handle your case for you. Under most situations, regardless of how bad the injuries are from that attack, other people, such as landlords or property owners, are not typically going to be responsible.
Does a Beware of Dog Sign Impact My Claim?
Someone that has a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign on their fence left their gate open and they put their dog out back. Your kids are out front playing in the street and the dog comes charging out and attacks your kids. That ‘Beware of Dog’ sign does not protect them under that situation.
Now, say your kids are playing ball and they hit their ball over the fence into another yard, and it says, ‘Beware of Dog,’ but they climb over the fence anyway to get the ball, and they’re attacked by the dog. In that situation, they may be protected because your child went over the wall. There may be circumstances where it is reasonable, or not, but their insurance company will defend that case based upon that ‘Beware of Dog’ sign, and it’s not going to be an easily won case.
Here’s another scenario: Say you’re over at someone’s house and they have a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign on their front door, and you go in and have coffee with them. You’re just having a chat and suddenly, the dog comes charging out and latches onto your leg and rips it apart. Do they avoid their responsibility because they had a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign? No. They knew that that dog had tendencies to attack. They invited you in, and they failed to properly secure their animal. You have a claim against them.
As you might be able to tell from all these scenarios, these are very fact-specific cases; they’re very complicated cases. Because of that, typically the insurance company is going to deny your claim. You need to have an attorney who deals with these types of claims on a regular basis. If a vicious dog has attacked you, give me a call. I’d be glad to talk to you, step you through the procedure and the analysis, and see what we can do.
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