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Dog-Bite Lawsuits: What Happens if the Victim Was Partly at Fault?

Fault for Dog Bite Accidents

While you may know that you’re responsible for any injuries that your dog inflicts on other people, you may be wondering if their contribution to the injury changes your level of liability. Sometimes others can provoke your pet and wind up getting bit? Are you really responsible for paying for their medical expenses when they’re the one that provoked the incident?

The reality is that each case is going to vary. The place where the incident happened, the actions that went down, and many other circumstances can change the outcome of your case. An accident injury attorney in Los Angeles will craft their dog bite defense based on state laws, circumstances, or even the way that a lawyer supports a legal theory.

What Are Some Cases Where the Injured Party Shares in the Blame?

The injured party may have taken actions at the time of the bite to warrant taking some of the blame for their injuries. A lawyer can tell you that many dog bites result from the dog feeling threatened.

Some of the most common reasons a dog will bite someone include when they reach their hand inside of a fence to pet the dog, trespass on a property, or enter a property that has ‘Beware Of Dog’ signs warning of the danger present. If any of these circumstances happened in regards to your dog bit case, your Los Angeles domestic dog attack lawyer could assist you in determining liability.

Shared Fault Isn’t Black and White

Any lawyer for dog bite attacks can tell their client that shared fault is handled differently depending on the state that the accident occurred in. In general, there are three main ways that this shared neglect is handled throughout the different states in the United States. These include:

  • Comparative Negligence

    Also referred to as pure negligence, the amount of compensation that is rewarded to the plaintiff will be reduced based on the percentage of their negligence in the accident. This law governs states like California and Florida. Even if the injured party was mostly to blame for the incident, they could still receive some compensation based on the percentage of fault that is placed on the dog owner.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence

    This is what law reigns supreme in most states, including Ohio, Texas, and Illinois. In this type of ruling, the negligence is broken down into percentages. The judge or jury will award a percentage of blame for the bite incident to both the plaintiff and the defendant. However, unlike pure or comparative negligence, there is a limitation in compensation. If the plaintiff has at least 50 to 51 percent of the blame for the incident, they are not entitled to any compensation for their injuries.
  • Contributory Negligence

    Lastly, we have contributory negligence that is practiced in a select few states, including the District of Columbia. Under this type of law, the plaintiff is not entitled to any compensation if they were even partially responsible for the incident. This means that the plaintiff could be held liable for contributing about five percent of the negligence to the incident, and they will not receive any sort of compensation for their injuries.

The way your attorney approaches your case will slightly vary depending on factors like the judge presiding over the case. Don’t expect that just because you live in California, the judge will act solely in accordance with pure or comparative negligence laws. Each case provides a different situation with varying circumstances that may affect the overall ruling of the case.

A Quick Talk About Settlements

You may have been told by a lawyer that most dog bite cases end up being settled before they even reach the courtroom. This is usually the easiest way to handle a case and get it solved quickly. When both parties look to agree to a settlement, it’s important to note that the state laws will be taken into question.

For example, a dog owner’s insurance company will mainly follow their state laws regarding payouts. This is because they always go into each case with the perspective that it may go to trial. For this reason, it’s important that you discuss your state governing laws with your attorney to discover what a viable settlement agreement may look like.

Understanding When Shared-Fault Rulings Apply To Your Situation?

For a shared-fault ruling to apply to your case, there must be neglect on the side of the dog owner. This neglect can be proven in many different ways. For example, a lawyer may state that the dog owner didn’t have the animal on a leash in a place where there are clear local leash laws.

There are two main laws that govern an animal owner’s responsibility in terms of dog bites. These are the one-bite rule and the strict liability rule. Under the one-bite rule, the dog owner is not held responsible when the dog bites someone for the first time. However, after that first incident occurs, the legal dog owner is declared aware of the danger that their dog poses to society. They will be held liable for any future incidents that occur.

The second main law that governs some states throughout the country is the strict-liability law. Under this law, the legal dog owner is responsible for any injuries that their dog inflicts on others. This holds true whether it’s the first time the dog bit someone or the second.

Most of the states that follow the strict-liability law relinquish the rights of the injured party if they’re found at-fault for provoking the dog or illegally trespassing onto the owner’s private property. In these cases, it’s up to the injured party to prove that the dog owner had somehow contributed to the incident in the form of negligence.

There are multiple defenses you can use in the event that your dog attacks someone. Dogs usually do not attack for no reason; attacks are the result of behavior that the dog sees as threatening. This is something that your lawyer can tell you more about.

When your dog attacks someone, you may be worried about the victim’s wellbeing, as well as your dog’s future and your financial stability. By reaching out to an attorney, you can feel assured that your case is going to be taken seriously.

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