The Psychological Effect of Getting Bitten by a Dog on an Individual
Interviewer: What sort of psychological effects have you seen someone experience when they have been through a dog attack?
Richard Sailer: I think that would be specific to the victim. When it’s young children, there’s apprehension and fear. From an emotional perspective, kids are affected a lot more than adults. Adults can rationalize that this was a specific incident and don’t need to be fearful of all animals whereas a younger person may develop a fear of dogs in general because of this specific incident that happened. The other thing that can enhance the emotional or psychological effects of animal attack would be if there’s permanent disfiguring scarring. Permanent scars can be substantial and may be a lingering problem that will be with them for the rest of their life. This is especially true if it’s a facial scar or something that would be conversationally visible in normal activities.
For a First Bite, the Animal Typically Will Not be Put Down and Will be Returned to its Owner
Interviewer: What happens to the actual animal? I mean is the animal going to be put down?
Richard Sailer: Typically, no. Assuming that the animal is licensed and vaccinations are documented, the owner has taken care of all the legal responsibilities associated with dog ownership so there are no issues there. If it’s a first bite, usually nothing will happen to the animal. Animal control may detain the animal for quarantine just to make sure it doesn’t have rabies. Moreover, if the first bite was not a vicious attack, the owner of the dog will get their animal back. If it’s a second or a third or a fourth attack, or the animal has known vicious propensities, the dog could be put down. For the majority of the time, there’s no recourse towards the animal.
The Process of Initiating Litigation in a Dog Bite Case
Interviewer: What is the process and what are the steps that one should take in pursuing a dog bite case?
Richard Sailer: The first thing we do is we try to identify the owner of the animal either through a police report, an animal control report, or if the victim knows where the animal came from. If they’ve got an address, we can then access public records and find out who the owner of that property is and get in contact with them to find out if that was their animal. What sometimes presents a problem for us is if it’s a tenant and the landlord or the property owner claims that they had no knowledge of the dog or that their lease specifically excludes dogs. Landlords that are not on notice of the animal can’t be held liable. This can present a problem if the tenant had an animal and the landlord was unaware of any vicious propensity. The landlord insurance would not cover the loss, but that’s not to say the tenant didn’t have renters insurance which would cover the loss. If we have a police report, an animal control report or if we know where the dog came from, it’s a pretty simple process in identifying who the owner is and tracking down insurance coverage.
How to Proceed if the Dog Owner Does Not Have Insurance
Interviewer: What if the dog owner does not have insurance?
Richard Sailer: Then we’d have to take a look and see if it’s a situation where they own the property, or if they’re a tenant. If there’s a tenant, typically they’re judgment proof, so it wouldn’t be economically viable to pursue the claim. If they own the property, but for whatever reason don’t have insurance, then it would be appropriate to do a financial determination as to whether or not it’s economically viable to pursue the case and obtain a judgment against them.
The Situations Where Attorneys Do Not Pursue Litigating a Dog Bite Claim
Interviewer: What are some examples of cases that involve animal bites that an attorney would not probably want to take on as far as the case goes?
Richard Sailer: If it was just a stray animal that you were unable to identify the owner, you’ve got no defendant to go after. Furthermore, if it were situation with a tenant and the landlord had no knowledge of the dog, that might be a situation that wouldn’t be viable either.