Bites And Other Injuries From Animals
Each year in the United States there are well over 5 million bites
or other injuries caused by animals. This section deals with the victim's
recovery rights and detailed steps to be taken to ensure prompt and fair
compensation for all injuries sustained.
Although dogs cause over 90 percent of the bites and other injuries, many
of the common law principles of liability, defenses, and proof of damages
apply to other animals as well. It is becoming increasingly common to see
examples of exotic animals, kept as pets, causing injury to humans. Even on
the prevalent issues of dog liability, the statutes vary from state to
state, and even by municipalities. However, the claimant, following
guidance herein, should be able to learn enough to present a meritorious
claim for injuries sustained.
Please take note that some states have no statutes whatsoever. Other states
require a showing of prior actual knowledge or imputed knowledge to the
animal owner, and many states follow the modern trend of assessing
liability on the "first bite", regardless of prior knowledge of the owner.
Another difference among the states is whether a victim can recover for
injuries caused by an animal, when the injury is not a bite. What if a
vicious dog caused the victim to flee and injuries were sustained in a fall
even though there was neither actual contact nor bite from the animal? Many
states allow recovery for injuries or damages other than bites**.
This section will show you how to be alert to conditions requiring
documentation following the incident**, be aggressive in pursuing insurance
coverage**and record all documentation for damages.** Further, this section
discusses the advantages of hiring an expert if liability is disputed,
provides with references regarding the prevention of injuries from
aggressive animals, and citations to state statutes and cases.
Do not be discouraged by the amount of material contained in this site. It
is relatively simple to put together a claim using the Easy Demand
Letters** format. In most cases, the liability will not be disputed and
damages will be easily documented. All the tips that you need for
proceeding in a straightforward way toward a fair settlement are contained
in this site. All of the other material in this site is useful background
information, depending upon the circumstances of each case.
As stated above, it is increasingly popular to maintain exotic animals as
pets. Examples of such animals are ferrets, monkeys, snakes, tarantulas,
scorpions, wolves, piranhas, aggressive reptiles and "big game" e.g. lions,
bears, etc. What is the liability of the owner of such an animal for bites
or other injuries caused to a victim?
There are few legal references or statutes specifically regarding liability
of owners for maintaining exotic animals as pets. At a minimum, the general
principles of common law negligence liability would be expected to pertain
in all states and the District of Columbia. In addition, one would expect a
threshold to be "lowered" because of imputed knowledge of the potential for
abnormal behavior of such animals.
Unlike dog bite incidents, which can occur outside the home of the owner,
in the yard, on the street or in a public park, bites or injuries from
exotic animals usually occur where they are kept. The victim is most often
going to be a family member or social guest of the owner.
The general basis of liability is found in the owner's desire to maintain
and expose to his visitor to an animal that is not "domesticated"; and
therefore, an animal whose response to human interaction either cannot be
predicted or is generally considered to be abnormal behavior one has come
to expect from a "pet". In some cases, e.g. piranhas, the injurious
reaction to contact can always be predicted. So, liability will be based
upon the circumstances under which the owner permitted the victim access to
the animal. Such as: Was the victim allowed near the animal without the
owner giving a warning?
General negligence liability is predicated upon what the owner either knew,
or in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about the
propensity of his animal. However, in the case of exotic animals, the
knowledge requirement may be modified because it will be said that in the
exercise of reasonable care, the owner should have known that the animal
could cause injury, its reaction to human contact could be unpredictable,
and therefore extreme caution must be exercised in exposing others to the
animal. This is true even if the animal had interacted with humans in the
past, including the victim.
Assumption of the risk or provocation by the victim will diminish his
monetary recovery in proportion to his comparative negligence.