Dog Bite Attacks
According to petpedia.com, as many as 4.7 million people are bitten or attacked by dogs each year. In 2018, there were 36 fatalities resulting from a dog attack, and Pit Bulls were responsible for 26 of those. At least half of all the victims of dog bites are children, and in 2012, as many as 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery after being attacked by a dog. Because children’s faces are more on a dog’s level, dogs are likely to bite children in the face, and more likely to bite adults on the legs or arms. While most dog bites are relatively minor, a dog bite attack can leave a child or adult with permanent scarring and disfigurement, not to mention mental and emotional trauma.
How Does the State of Louisiana Look at Dog Bites?
Under Louisiana law, a strict liability theory is followed for dog bites. This means that absent provocation, the owner of the dog is considered liable for any adverse actions on the part of the dog—i.e., a bite or attack. There is a caveat to that statement; the owner is liable for damage only if it can be shown that he or she knew—or should have known—that the behavior of the dog would cause damage, that the damage could have been prevented had the owner of the dog exercised reasonable care, and that no such reasonable care was exercised. As you might imagine, there is plenty of gray area within Louisiana law regarding dog bites and dog attacks.
Becker v. Keasler
In 2002, the case of Becker v. Keasler provided a good example of how the Louisiana dog bite statutes are applied. Jacalynne Becker, a college student, and the plaintiff stated she was walking down a sidewalk in New Orleans when she reached into her purse for her cell phone. Becker then felt something “latch onto her arm and pull her toward the fence.” Realizing it was a dog (an Akita, belonging to Keasler), she dislodged the dog and went to the nearest ER for treatment. According to Becker, she did not see or hear the dog prior to the attack and did not attempt to pet the dog or make any move toward it. While Keasler was not home at the time of the dog bite, his roommate, Ronald Miller, stated he saw the bite occur and that Becker reached over the fence to pet the dog prior to the bite (provocation).
However, during Miller’s cross-examination, he admitted Keasler’s dog bit another person on the face after biting Becker and that the dog had been euthanized as a result. The court found in favor of Becker, believing her arm injuries were not consistent with her reaching over the fence to pet the dog. The court further found that since there was no provocation on Becker’s part, the dog was partially restrained by a rope, but still able to reach the fence, and the dog had a history of aggression, that strict liability had been established, awarding Becker $2,250 in special damages and $35,000 in general damages, plus costs.
What is the “One-bite” Rule?
The “one-bite” rule refers to establishing negligence in a personal injury claim following a dog bite attack. An owner can only be deemed negligent after their dog bites a person if they knew—or had reason to know—that the dog could potentially bite someone. In other words, if a seven-year-old Golden Retriever bites a person in the park, however, the dog has never shown any aggression whatsoever and has never bitten another person, it could be more difficult to show the owner knew or should have known, the dog would bite. If that same Golden Retriever has bitten before or shown aggression toward other people, then the owner must have taken steps to ensure the dog could not harm another person, therefore could be found responsible for any damage resulting from the bite in the park. While the state of Louisiana does operate under the “one-bite” rule, there are additional requirements for the owner to be found liable, including:
- The owner must have been aware that the dog had exhibited potentially dangerous behavior in the past, such as growling at people or attempting to bite them.
- It must be shown that the present bite injury could have been prevented by the owner—he or she could have put the dog in the back yard with a fence or otherwise secured the dog to prevent the dog from injuring a person.
- It must be shown that the owner failed to take sufficient care to prevent the injury the dog inflicted on the person.
- Finally, it must be shown that the dog was not provoked by the person he or she bit, or by others with that person.
Under Louisiana law, bites by a dog are not the only thing covered. If an animal knocks a child or adult down, causing injury to the child or adult, these injuries also fall under the dog bite statute. The dog bite statute also covers injuries from other animals as well. For example, if a person’s ostrich (horse, cow, goat, pig, etc.) gets out and hurts a person, the injuries are covered under the dog bite statute.
What are the Typical Injuries Following a Dog Bite Attack?
A variety of injuries can result from a dog bite attack. In some cases, a dog bite can lead to permanent disfigurement due to scarring or tissue damage. The most common injuries following a dog bite attack include:
- Eye injuries
- Broken bones
- Puncture wounds
- Head and neck injuries
- Facial injuries
- Nerve damage
- Emotional damage
Public vs. Private Property
If the dog bite occurred on public property, such as an apartment complex, then the owner/landlord of the property may have separate liability to the victim of a dog bite if he or she knew or should have known a tenant was harboring an animal with aggressive tendencies or if there was a defect in the property that allowed the dog to escape.
What Should You Do if You Have Been Bitten by a Dog in Louisiana?
If you have been bitten by a dog in Louisiana, it is extremely important that you seek medical attention immediately, then once your injuries have been seen to, contact an experienced Hoffoss Devall dog bite attorney. We will ensure you are properly compensated for your injuries resulting from the dog bite attack, and that your rights are protected from day one. Contact Hoffoss Devall today.