Dog Bites

Dog attacks represent some of the most gruesome personal injuries that are suffered, particularly where a child is involved (as is often the case). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries. Children are especially at risk for dog attacks. It is important to teach children to be safe around dogs to prevent these catastrophic events from occurring.

Alabama has a strict liability dog bite statute that holds the owner of a dog liable for damages inflicted by his or her dog if it bites a person who is either in a public place or lawfully on the dog owner's property. Code of Ala. § 3-6-1. The dog owner is liable regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before and regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe it would behave in a vicious manner. The dog does not get "one free bite," as is the case in other states. The owner of the dog may try to reduce the amount of damages by proving he or she had no knowledge of the viciousness of the dog. Code of Ala. § 3-6-3. In that case, the owner would only be liable for the actual damages to the plaintiff. In essence, the dog's owner is an insurer of the dog under Alabama law.

If a stray bites you, you have little legal recourse because you must file your claim against a dog's owner or keeper. Your municipality is not responsible for the dog, even if you have called the animal warden several times to pick up the stray. In all dog bite cases it is essential that measures be taken to ensure prompt medical attention to the victim and to notify authorities.


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