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When Dogs Bite Veterinarians or Other Animal Workers

What to do When Your Dog Gives Someone a Severe Injury

When you get a dog, there are a lot of worries that start to set in. You may be wondering what will happen if your dog ends up biting someone. As your mind races, you may think about whether or not you’ll be held liable if your dog ends up biting the veterinarian or one of the vet assistants while they’re getting their checkup.

In general, you won’t be held financially responsible for any injuries that occur if your pet bites a veterinarian or one of their staff members. It’s considered an occupational hazard, in most cases, so you’ll be alleviated of liability. However, there are exceptions, and you should be aware of them.

Assumption Of Risk

When your dog injures someone, they can take you to court to cover the medical expenses. During the hearing, they must prove to the judge that your pet was responsible for the injuries. Conversely, your accident injury attorney in Los Angeles will be able to come up with some viable defenses for you. The most obvious type of defense used in the case of a vet or one of their staff members is the assumption of risk defense.

With this type of defense, you’re presenting to the judge that the injured party knew of the danger and voluntarily took on the risk anyway. Since they knew of the risk and took it by their own choice, then you won’t be held financially responsible for the injuries that occurred. Apart from vets and their office personnel, this assumption of risk defense is commonly used by any lawyer for dog bite attacks. It can cover groomers, kennel operators, and generally anyone else who regularly works with animals for a living.

Some Exceptions To This Defense

Any domestic dog attack lawyer Los Angeles will reveal that no defense is ironclad. Rather, there are always some exceptions to all types of defense strategies. For this reason, you should take the time to identify if your case falls into the exception category. These categories include:

  • There was a hazard that went beyond the normal risk of working with animals, and you concealed that risk from the injured party.
  • You still had full control over your animal because the animal worker didn’t yet assume the risk.

A Look At Strict-Liability Laws

Any attorney can reveal whether or not your state abides by strict-liability laws. These generally hold the dog owner responsible for the animal, regardless of what happens. The only exceptions that apply are when the injured party is at-fault for provoking the dog, doing something illegal, or trespassing.

Unfortunately, not all states are so black and white on the matter. Some states will accept the assumption of risk defense that we went over above for all those people who regularly work with animals. However, other states won’t accept this defense as it’s not clearly stated in their statutes that it’s viable. Some examples of these states that won’t accept the assumption of risk defense include Ohio and Arizona.

The Keeper Defense Strategy

Your lawyer for dog bite attacks in strict-liability states may try out the keeper defense to win your case. Under this idea, the vet or other animal worker is considered to be the keeper of the dog. A keeper is anyone who willingly takes care of the dog other than the legal owner. When victims are bitten, the keeper is seen in the same light as the legal owner of the pet.

When this reasoning is applied by your attorney, it may alleviate your liability from the case. However, that’s not always certain. For example, Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled that the owner or keeper of the animal may not be someone that is a temporary custodian, such as a vet. There is still a lot of uncertainty with this type of defense. However, at least it gives the dog owner a fighting chance in an otherwise strict-liability state.

Tips On Talking To Your Lawyer About Your Case

Each case is going to be slightly different than the next. It’s a good idea to hire an attorney to help defend your case. When you sit down for your initial consultation, there are some basic questions that you’ll want to ask. These include all of the following:

  • Is this state a strict-liability state in regards to dog bites?
  • What type of defense do you think will be most effective for my case?
  • Are there any previous cases that set a precedence for my case?
  • Is it possible to prove that the vet was provoking my dog? Will this relinquish my liability for their medical expenses?
  • Will the fact that a veterinarian took on the assumption of risk lower the amount of money that a jury may award them for the case?
  • If I was in the room when the bite took place, does the assumption of liability or keeper defense still work?

Any good lawyer with extensive knowledge of domestic animal cases, will have a clear understanding of how they can work to successfully defend your case. They will take the time to go over the evidence and understand exactly what happened. This is imperative, as some defenses rely on the order of the events that took place. An experienced lawyer will be able to identify if there is a viable defense for your case and instruct you on what that particular defense is.

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