Friday March 01, 2019 | Category: Personal Injury
Most Americans across the country, including those in Alabama, have a strong affection for their dogs and often consider them as part of the family – but they are still classified as animals no matter how domesticated. And, because animals are capable of behaving violently and unpredictably, millions of Americans are hurt by dog bite attacks every year. Alabama is no exception to this trend.
Studies show that as many as 47 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Half of these victims are young children – between the ages of five and nine years of age. Moreover, nearly 10,000 people have hospitalized annually in the U.S. for dog bite-related injuries. Aside from dog bite wounds, victims of an Alabama dog bite attack may also suffer from broken bones, sprains, skin lacerations, infections, and other health and medical issues. Some injuries are so severe that they result in death. Alabama law allows dog bite victims several manners in which they can recover monetary compensation from injuries suffered. The primary theories of liability include (1) Alabama’s Dog Bite Statute and (2) Alabama’s common law.
Under Alabama’s Dog Bite Statute, a dog owner will be held financially liable for injuries suffered by a victim as a result of a dog attack on the owner’s property, or when the victim is chased by the dog off of the owner’s property. This law imposes strict liability, meaning any knowledge of the animal’s vicious tendencies is not a requirement in order for liability to be found. Notably, the individual must be both the owner of the animal and the owner of the property where the dog bite attack occurred or where the dog began pursuit of the victim to be found strictly – or automatically – liable for injuries suffered. Moreover, the dog bite attack must have happened without any provocation of the animal by the victim.
The state of Alabama is often referred to as a “one-bite” state. In reality, however, the law does not distinguish between the rule and general negligence principles. In order for a dog owner to be held liable for injuries suffered by an Alabama dog bite attack victim, the injured party must establish that the owner had knowledge of – or had reason to know of – the animal’s dangerous tendencies. Simply put, the victim must establish that the dog’s owner was put on notice of the animal’s violent tendencies. This is known as propensity evidence.
Easy evidence of this knowledge is if the particular dog has previously attacked any person or animal. Except for certain exceptions of dog breeds, Alabama courts have given dogs “one free bite”. Another way to establish propensity evidence in an Alabama dog bite attack case is through the dog’s particular breed. Over the years, Alabama courts have held that certain dog breeds – such as pit bulls and pit bull mixes – are inherently vicious. Therefore, an owner is automatically on notice of the animal’s violent tendencies regardless of whether the dog has a history of attacking.
If you have questions about the laws regarding dog bite attacks, contact the Alabama personal injury lawyers at the Stevenson Klotz Law Firm. Our skilled Mobile personal injury attorneys can help explain the law and explain whether or not you have a valid claim.
Following graduation from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, Eric Stevenson held a number of positions including Assistant State Attorney in the First Judicial Circuit of Florida. Eric has been practicing with partner Christopher Klotz since 2015 litigating personal injury and car accidents in Alabama and Florida.