When Man’s Best Friend Bites – Helpful Information From Las Vegas Dog Bite LawyersFiled under Personal Injury
Dogs are certainly man’s best friend but they are also animals that respond to their instincts. In the United States approximately 5 million people a year experience a dog bite. While injuries are often minor, approximately 20% of cases require immediate medical attention. Sometimes dogs can attack with tragic consequences. The purpose of this blog post is to provide helpful information regarding potential legal options following a dog bite attack.
Nevada Is A “One-Bite” State
The majority of states impose statutory strict liability for dog attacks, making the owner of a dog legally liable to a victim who is bitten. In other words, in the majority of the states an owner whose dog bites another person can be legally liable regardless of whether the dog has bitten before.
Nevada is a minority state that has a “one bite rule,” also commonly referred to as a “one free bite rule.” What this means in practical terms is that a dog owner cannot generally be held liable for the first attack on the theory that it was not foreseeable and the owner had no prior knowledge that the dog was susceptible to attacking.
The “one bite” rule developed in ancient England during the 1600s when dogs and other animals wandered through towns as a normal part of life. In those ancient times, judges decided an owner should not be held civilly liable unless there was a “history” of the dog biting someone. Of course, this rule created no incentive for people to control their animals since they could only be held responsible after a tragedy occurred.
The “one bite” rule has been abandoned in most states on the grounds that modern life requires people to take responsibility for their animals. After all, every victim suffers when attacked by a dog. To allow a dog “one free bite” is to minimize and disregard the pain suffered by the initial victim. Unfortunately, however, the “one bite” rule remains the law in Nevada.
To some extent, the “one bite” rule is a misnomer. In a biting case, the “one bite” rule can be satisfied by showing a dog’s “dangerous propensity.” In other words, it is not necessary to show that the dog previously bit a person. Instead, an owner can be held liable by simply showing that on a prior occasion, the dog wanted to bite someone – thereby demonstrating a dangerous propensity. Proof of dangerous propensity can be shown through prior incidents involving an actual bite, a vicious snap or menacing growling preceding an attempt to bite. Establishing dangerous propensity is a way of proving that an owner knew, or should have known, that his or her dog could bite again.
How Does One Typically Sue For A Dog Bite?
Dog bite cases are generally brought under a “negligence” theory. In other words, the dog owner owed the victim a duty of care and breached that duty. The duty of care element is satisfied by showing that the dog had a dangerous propensity or had actually bitten someone before. Many dog owners have homeowners insurance policies that cover dog bites. If the limits on the policy are low, one can find out if the dog owner has an “umbrella” or “excess” policy. This is supplemental coverage that is often associated with automobile policies. This is an area where a skilled and aggressive attorney is beneficial since having medical and compensatory damages paid by an insurance company is preferable to an individual owner.
Are There Criminal Ramifications?
Under Nevada law, Nevada Revised Statute (“NRS”) 202.500, a dangerous dog is one that without provocation, on two separate occasions within the past 18-months, behaves menacingly to a degree that would cause a reasonable person to defend him or herself against substantial bodily harm when the dog is off its owner’s premises or not confined in a cage. A “vicious” dog, under NRS 202.500 is one that “without being provoked, kills or inflicts substantial bodily injury upon a human being.” A person who keeps a dog declared to be vicious, as the term is used under NRS 202.500, can be prosecuted for a category D felony under Nevada law.