Dog Bite And Animal Attack Attorneys

There are an estimated 90 million dogs in the U.S., the most popular breeds being Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. Most people keep dogs as companions, though they can also be taught to assist with law enforcement, hunting and those with disabilities. While many are extremely intelligent and sweet creatures, the unfortunate reality is that many do bite.

DogsBite.org estimates approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. require emergency care for serious dog bites every day. Every year, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs and an estimated 9,500 people require hospitalization. Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for one-third of all homeowner liability claims in a single recent year, totaling nearly $700 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

At Lein Law Offices, our dog bite injury attorneys will help you determine whether you've got a viable claim and if so, help you fight to recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, scarring, disfigurement and disability.

Injuries by a dog may include:

  • Cuts and lacerations;
  • Bleeding/ bruising;
  • Pain;
  • Stiffness/ soreness;
  • Eventual scarring;
  • Infection;
  • Potential for illnesses like rabies, capnocytophaga spp (a type of bacteria dogs can spread through bites), pasteurella (also a bacteria), MRSA (deadly bacteria with strains resistant to antibiotics).

Some complications can be serious – possibly even requiring amputation – and some may prove fatal.

Further, dog bites leave not only physical but emotional scars. Dog owners who fail to responsibly train, care for and control their dogs need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Our Hayward dog bite injury attorneys are committed to helping you recover the damages you deserve.

Wisconsin's Dog Bite Law

The so-called "dog bite statute" in Wisconsin is codified in WI Stat. 174.02. It's a bit different than laws in other states in that it does allow for strict liability on a first bite – regardless of whether the owner knew the animal had prior incidents or a propensity to bite. However, it also allows for the owner to be required to pay double the underlying damages on a second bite – if they can show the owner had prior knowledge of the first bite.

Example: Let's say Fido bites John. Fido, who is Rachel's dog, has never bitten anyone before. As the owner and/ or keeper of that dog, Rachel can be held strictly liable to cover John's medical bills and other damages resulting from that bite. (More likely than not, it will be Rachel's homeowners' insurance that will be footing the bill.)

Now, let's say Fido bites again, six months later, and this time it's Sarah. Per a change to the law made by the Wisconsin legislature in 2015, Sarah has a claim for twice the damages because this is the dog's second bite, so long as she can prove Rachel knew or had notice of that first bite. These second bite damages are not applicable if Sarah were seeking damages for injury to her own dog or to her property. Specifically, this second bite rule is applicable only to:

  • Dog bites inflicted on a person;
  • Where plaintiff's skin is broken AND;
  • There is permanent scarring or disfigurement.

It's also important with both the first and second bite that the attack occurred without provocation.

It is possible defendant could claim contributory negligence, as outlined in WI Stat. § 895.045. This wouldn't necessarily prohibit the claim unless a jury deemed plaintiff more than 50 percent responsible, but provocation of a dog resulting in an attack can often meet that criteria. It's important to note children – especially small children – would not likely be held to that same standard.

In general, a vicious attack by a breed of dog generally considered dangerous wherein the owner knew or had reason to know the dog might be violent will probably result in greater damage awards.

Who Can Be Held Liable For Dog Bite Injuries?

The Insurance Information Institute reports there were approximately 18,500 dog bite injury claims nationally in a single recent year, with the average cost per claim being about $37,000.

Most of the time, these claims are filed against the owner of the dog. There may be some circumstances, however, under which others may be responsible too. These might include:

  • The controller of the animal (dog walker/ sitter, kennel owner, roommate, etc.);
  • The landlord who allowed the dog to live on site;
  • The property owner who allowed the dog to live in their home.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court several years ago tackled the issue of whether someone other than the owner could be deemed liable for a dog bite. In Augsburger v. Homestead Mutual Insurance Company et al., the court ruled a man could not be held liable for injuries caused by his adult daughter's dogs because, while she lived in a property he owned, he did not reside there nor did he control or "harbor" the dogs. The court wrote that "mere ownership of the property on which the dog resides is not sufficient to establish that an individual is an owner of a dog" under the dog bite statute. Instead, it is the totality of the circumstances that dictates whether property owner exercised control over property to be considered a "harborer" and thus an "owner" under the law.

An experienced injury attorney in Hayward or Winter can give insight into whether you have a challenging or straightforward case and also give a general idea of what you might expect in terms of compensation.

Contact Lein Law Offices for information about your dog bite injury in Hayward, Winter or elsewhere in Sawyer County or Wisconsin by calling toll-free at 877-712-4023.