Under Alabama law, someone injured by a dog has multiple courses of action to pursue a case against the dog owner.
Dogs are loyal and intelligent animals that many households treat like family. However, if the owners lack awareness and responsibility, dogs have the potential to be dangerous.
As people spend more time outside and temperatures rise, so do the chances of a dog bite occurrence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites yearly. Roughly 334,000 of those are severe enough to require medical treatment. Due to this large number of reported injuries, everyone benefits from understanding the liability laws regarding dog bites.
Can an owner be liable if their dog attacks?
Yes. Alabama law provides three main reasons an owner would be liable for injuries their animal causes.
1. The dog displays vicious or dangerous tendencies.
This means a dog has shown it is capable of harming someone. This evidence could be from a prior biting incident, attempted attacks, chasing people, or knocking someone down by jumping on them.
Even if the dog jumps on someone in a playful manner, the law considers that mischievous behavior and establishes dangerous tendencies.
Fact: In 2020, the United States reported 46 dog-bite-related fatalities. Sadly, one of those deaths occurred in Alabama.
2. The dog belongs to a vicious or dangerous breed.
If a dog attacks, even if the animal has no history of aggression, the owner is still liable for injuries caused by it. In Alabama, the only breed recognized as inherently dangerous is the pitbull.
For other breeds, the victim must prove the owner knew the dog had vicious tendencies. An attorney can establish this with previously documented bites or testimony from others that have seen the animal act aggressively.
Even still, there is no such thing as a one-bite rule in Alabama. Put simply, if your dog bites someone, you are liable.
Fact: Research done by the Insurance Information Institute shows the insurance industry paid $530 million in dog-bite-related claims in 2014.
3. The owner or keeper of a dog is responsible for attacks on the owner’s property, whether or not the dog had previously acted in a threatening way.
This law protects individuals with a legal right to be on the owner’s property, including utility workers, delivery people, or lawful visitors.
Suppose a dog under the property owner’s control causes injury to an individual legally on the property. In that case, the owner is liable for any medical expenses or lost wages due to the attack.
Fact: United States Postal Service research showed more than 5,800 of its workers suffered from dog attacks in 2020.
Do I need an attorney if I am injured by a dog?
The legalities can be complicated. An experienced attorney will investigate and earn you compensation for medical bills and lost wages. Your attorney will:
- investigate the owner’s knowledge of previous dangerous behavior by their dog
- evaluate existing renters/homeowners’ insurance for the parties involved
- determine ownership of the dog that bit the injured
Added to this, attorneys have other tools and resources at their disposal to make sure you receive the best possible outcome in your case.
If you or a family member has been injured by a dog, please contact the experienced attorneys at Timberlake & League. We can help.