It seems every day dog and pet ownership is increasing. In a 2017-2018 survey by the American Pet Products Association there were nearly 90 million dogs owned as pets in the United States. The global dog food market alone was worth more than $51 Billion in 2018. Dogs are currently one of the most preferred pets anywhere across the globe. We often see these animals much more often in places such as airports, stores, vehicles, in any other place you may see someone out in public. While some of it is genuine and warranted, other times people feel the need to Simply bring their pet along with them. Alabama has a variation of laws pertaining to vicious animals and dog attacks.
According to United States Postal Service website, nearly 6,000 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2018 but that number is small compared to the number reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who registered almost 4.5 million Americans attacked by dogs last year. Many home delivery companies face now face this ever-increasing threat every year because of the nature of delivering to people’s homes where dogs are generally located. Among children, the highest dog bite comes to those aged anywhere from 5 to 9 years old and more than 50% of dog-bite injuries occur at home with dogs that we know and are familiar with.
Just as with car Liability Insurance, homeowners and renters liability insurance coverage generally covers legal and liability costs up to the limits of liability for homeowners and renters insurance policies. Most homeowner’s and renter’s liability insurance policies sold in the US carry liability ranging from $100,000 dollars to $300,000 in liability coverage. Your insurance policy will only cover you up to the limits of their liability amount and you are responsible for anything occurring above that amount.
We can often recall television shows and movies where mailman are chased or bitten by unkept dogs. Alabama Law provides protection for individuals who are lawfully on the property of another to conduct official service or government business. The owner can be held liable for injuries to these persons and for injuries they sustained if they are chased away from the owner’s property in her elsewhere. Alabama Code 3-6-1 sets out “If any dog shall, without provocation, bite or injure any person who is at the time at a place where he or she has a legal right to be, the owner of such dog shall be liable in damages to the person so bitten or injured, but such liability shall arise only when the person so bitten or injured is upon property owned or controlled by the owner of such dog at the time such bite or injury occurs or when such person has been immediately prior to such time on such property and has been pursued therefrom by such dog.
Alabama Code 3-1-3 (1975) states: “When any person owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and, as a result of his careless management of the same or his allowing the same to go at liberty, and another person, without fault on his part, is injured thereby, such owner or keeper shall be liable in damages for such injury.”
You might notice in this code section, the law not only address is danger dogs but also animals that are danger in general. There is no government record or bright-line that determines if a dog or animal is “dangerous”. This is usually determined by an investigation into the animals history, the animals veterinary records, and the animal’s General demeanor as described by Witnesses. An expert could be employed to give testimony on the animal if necessary.
Alabama also does have what is commonly called a “leash law”. Found in Alabama Code 3-1-5, it requires animals to not be allowed to run at Large. It reads “(a) Every person owning or having in charge any dog or dogs shall at all times confine such dog or dogs to the limits of his own premises or the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Nothing in this section shall prevent the owner of any dog or dogs or other person or persons having such dog or dogs in his or their charge from allowing such dog or dogs to accompany such owner or other person or persons elsewhere than on the premises on which such dog or dogs is or are regularly kept. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $2.00 nor more than $50.00. (b) This section shall not apply to the running at large of any dog or dogs within the corporate limits of any city or town in this state that requires a license tag to be kept on dogs nor shall this section apply in any county in this state until the same has been adopted by the county commission of such county.”
Of course individual cities and towns have specific ordinances that govern the ownership of dogs, cats, and other animals.
As a general rule, the owner of a dog, who has bitten a another person, may be held responsible for the injuries if the injured person can prove that the victim did not provoke the dog or the victim was not trespassing where the dog lives or stays or the victim was on the dog owner’s property and have been chased Away by the dog.
There are some dogs considered and categorized as dangerous by insurance companies, such as pit bulls. This is not to say that all pit bulls are dangerous but the rate of attack is higher from these breeds, according to insurance claims records. Why is that important? Some homeowners insurance policies and renters liability insurance policies will not cover claims for some specific breeds or may require the owner to purchase additional Insurance, such as a rider, to cover that specific breed. It is important to check with your homeowners insurance to see if your breed is covered, known to bite more often.
A dog owner may allege they had no knowledge that the dog was dangerous or likely to bite but might still be held liable for actual expenses and losses you suffer. Often called the one bite rule, this my excuse punitive damages in a case. Large dogs can cause injuries to small children and elderly persons by simply jumping on them and knocking them down, causing common falling injuries, which can cause head injuries Bruises and even broken bones. Even the most friendly dog can be provoked or get excited and small children are often injured by large dogs, simply due to the dog-to-human size differences.
If you think you have a dog bite case or you know someone who has been injured by a dog or vicious animal, call my office immediately at 205-836-1224 and let us begin the process of evaluating your possible claim. My office will immediately investigate to see if there’s a possibility of recovery for your personal injury claim due to a dangerous or vicious dog or animal attack.
There are instances when you cannot like a recovery from a dog attack such as when someone provokes a dog, intentionally trying to angry, or when someone is a trespasser on your property and the dog is acting to defend your land and home.
Keep in mind the general statute of limitations for a dog bite case is two years from the date of the attack. It is absolutely critical that the victim keep very good records of economic losses such as won’t stay, medical bills, and other costs associated with being injured.
In situations where a property is rented out, the owner of the property could be held liable if the animal is known to be dangerous and the owner does not steps to remedy the problem. The owner of the property has a responsibility to prevent and correct dangerous conditions that could result in likely injury to a person, and should take steps in prohibiting dangerous animals from entering or remaining on the land. This may include prohibiting tenants from owning certain types of animals that are known to be dangerous or who have a history of being dangerous.