Every year, dogs bite and injure approximately 4.7 million people across the United States, with children more likely to be bitten than adults. One out of every six bites is severe enough to require medical attention and some can even be fatal, so if you or a family member were injured by a dog, you may be able to pursue compensation.
Maine recognizes traditional negligence and strict liability rules for dog-bite cases. It also has statutes that create additional potential liability. When you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury because of a dog, legal advice from a personal injury lawyer can help you determine your options.
- Dog bite and injury outcomes
- How you can protect others from dog attacks
- Maine dog bite rules
- Why consider a dog bite victim lawyer
Dog Bite and Injury Outcomes
Injuries from a dog bite can be very serious, and even small bites can result in life-long scarring as well as a fear of dogs.
Children are especially vulnerable to dog bites. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, between 2010 and 2012 more than 350,000 children were bitten by dogs, and children under the age of 4 were twice as likely to be bitten as those between the ages of 5 and 9. According to the same study, nearly 27,000 people undergo reconstructive surgery after a dog bite, and more than 20% of victims require medical attention.
The long-term consequences of a dog bite, especially for children, can include heightened fear of strange dogs. This is on top of any physical injuries that may result. Keep in mind that a dog does not have to bite someone to cause harm; if a dog knocks a person to the ground and causes injury, the owner may still be liable.
Protecting Others From Another Dog Attack
When a dog bites someone, that dog may have attacked before or may attack again in the future. Sometimes people who love animals hesitate to report the bite because of what might happen to the dog. However, there are many options for handling the situation that do not involve harming the animal. Under Maine law, the owners of the animal, not the dog, are held responsible for attacks, bites, and other injuries.
By reporting the incident, you protect the wider community. After a dog bite is reported, both the dog and its owner can be assessed. Steps can be taken (or imposed) to ensure that the dog will not hurt anyone else. Those steps can include:
- Muzzling the dog when it is outside the home to prevent further biting
- Training for the dog and the owner
- Restricting the animal’s access to outside
Understanding Maine’s Dog Bite Rule
Maine recognizes different types of claims arising from dog-bites, including negligence, strict liability, and statutory liability. Each type of claim requires different proof and the defenses available to the dog owner or keeper are different depending on the type of claim. An experienced personal injury attorney can investigate and analyze the facts of your case to determine which type of claim best suits the facts of your case.
Deciding who is responsible for a dog bite or attack means focusing on the behavior and knowledge of the dog owner, not looking simply at the breed of the dog. Prior knowledge of unprovoked bites or attacks can mean legal liability regardless of the dog’s breed.
Why Consider a Dog Bite Victim Lawyer?
Residents of Lewiston and other Maine communities may not understand their rights under the Maine dog-bite statutes and under Maine common law. Dog attacks that cause injury, including bumps and bruising, long-term scars or property damage, may be the responsibility of the owner or keeper. Under Maine law, a lawsuit must generally be filed within six years of the dog attack, which allows time for a full diagnosis of the injuries, including long-term psychological effects.
Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me Seek Compensation for a Dog Bite?
Yes, when a dog bites an individual in Lewiston, Maine, he or she may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury lawyer. When a dog injures an individual who is not on the premises of the dog’s keeper or owner, the dog’s keeper or owner can be liable for the injuries sustained.
Police Sergeant Attacked by Pit Bull
Police Sergeant Brian Gardiner was attacked by a pit bull terrier as he tried to control an unruly crowd. The pit bull was quarantined following the attack. The dog bit Sgt. Gardiner’s legs. Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey states that the police were responding to a report of a burglary at Summer Street in Waterville, Maine. The burglary involved a sign that warned of security cameras placed outside the apartment located at 21 Summer Street.
When the officers arrived, they observed a large group of unruly and uncooperative people. Deputy Chief Rumsey states that officers arrested the man whose image was seen stealing the sign on the security camera. As these events were occurring, Sgt. Gardiner was bitten by the pit bull.
After Sgt. Gardiner fought the dog off, it retreated to the back of the apartment. Sgt. Gardiner went to the emergency room to receive treatment. He suffered two minor puncture wounds on the back of each leg.
Because the dog bit Sgt. Gardiner, and the dog’s owner neglected to keep vaccinations up to date, the dog needed to be quarantined for 10 days. Animal Control Officer Chris Martinez seized the pit bull terrier, taking it to the Humane Society in the Waterville Area. The dog’s owner was summoned for not having the dog’s rabies vaccine up-to-date and for failing to have a dog license. If found guilty, he could be fined for these violations.
Depending on the Circumstances, Deadly Force is Allowed
State law allows an individual to use deadly force to protect a domesticated animal, himself or herself, or another person during a sudden, unprovoked assault. Any person who keeps, or owns a dangerous dog is committing a civil violation. The court can fine the owner. These fines must be at least $250 and up to $1,000. If a dog is responsible for the death of an individual, the court can order that the dog be euthanized.
When a Dog Owner Neglects to Comply
If a dog owner neglects or refuses to follow an order from the Court, if the dog commits another offense, the owner is responsible for paying the injured person’s total damages and costs.
Filing a Complaint
An individual can file a complaint with law enforcement, the sheriff, or animal control within 30 days of the incident. The owner of the dog may receive a summons for having a dog that is considered dangerous.
If a dog owner fails to adhere to the order of the court in the time allotted, a warrant may be issued in the district where the dog is found, and the commanding officer is permitted to fatally wound the dog. The keeper or owner of the dog may be ordered to pay all the costs associated with the proceedings, as well as all feasible costs related to the seizure of, and euthanasia of, the dog.
If you or a family member has been injured because of a dog bite, you may have the right to compensation. Contact The Law Offices of Fales & Fales, P.A., at 888-526-9408 for a FREE consultation to determine the best way to proceed.