Dogs are often called man’s best friend. They can be a wonderful addition to a family for companionship and protection. When a dog bites, however, the injuries that can result are often serious. Nearly 5 million dog bites occur every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Oklahoma, there are liability statutes governing the responsibility of the owner when a dog bites someone without provocation.
Depending on the length and severity of the attack, and the size of the victim, dog bite injuries can range from minor injuries to ones so severe they cause amputations or even death. When a person is not a trespasser and does not provoke a dog, Oklahoma law favors the victims in recovering compensation from the owner.
A Tulsa dog bite lawyer can assist you in determining if you have a legal claim against a dog owner and what the scope of liability might be. They can assist you in deciding how to proceed in filing a personal injury claim as well as how the legal and financial concerns will dictate the type of defense to pursue. Hiring a dog bite attorney will provide access to a team of legal professionals who will assess injuries, medical care costs, gather evidence, and coordinate with insurance companies.
One of the first steps to take after a dog bite injury is to contact insurance companies for both the victim of the dog bite and the owner of the dog. Usually, an injury that occurs on a person’s property will be covered by that person’s homeowner’s insurance policy. This includes dog bites where the dog is unprovoked by the victim. These policies also often cover bites that happen outside the property when a dog attack occurs on a sidewalk or street.
A dog bite lawyer can work to negotiate a reasonable and fair payment or settlement with the insurance company. Using their skill and experience, dog bite attorneys will examine state and local laws to map out their approach and calculate the appropriate damages to seek. When you or a loved one is facing medical treatment from a dog bite injury, having seasoned experts working on your behalf can relieve the stress and confusion in these situations.
Oklahoma Statute Section 44 describes two types of dogs who may be covered under the law in the event of a dog bite injury, potentially dangerous dogs and dangerous dogs. In both instances, the dog attack is defined as unprovoked, meaning that it does not apply to instances where a person is intentionally harassing or attempting to injure a dog. It also does not apply to situations in which a person is illegally entering a property for criminal purposes, such as burglary.
A potentially dangerous dog is more specifically defined as:
A dangerous dog involves stricter conditions and meets at least one of these criteria:
Dangerous dogs will be registered as such with the state of Oklahoma. If the owner decides to continue keeping the dog in their home, they must follow certain provisions as directed by the state, specifically:
The owner of the dog must meet these conditions and maintain liability coverage under their homeowner’s insurance policy to cover any medical bills that future dog bite victims may incur. The coverage should be sufficient to cover medical expenses such as those for cosmetic surgery, serious injuries, disfigurement, and even wrongful death. Otherwise, the dog can be seized by animal control authorities, and the owner fined several hundred dollars for a first offense, and higher amounts plus possible imprisonment for succeeding instances.
Most dog bites occur without provocation. Not all dog owners will invest the time and money to properly train their dogs for social situations, and many dogs will react to new people and animals out of fear. Other dogs are naturally more aggressive and may be acting on their natural urges to protect themselves and their owners. Bites or other injuries can cause harm in a matter of seconds that lead to a lifetime of medical treatment.
However a dog bite attack happens, it is important to act quickly. Here are some steps you should follow immediately if you are bitten by a dog:
Once the dog bite victim is safe, has received medical attention, and spoken to authorities, the final step is to contact a qualified Tulsa personal injury attorney. A lawyer who is experienced with dog bite cases can manage the legal procedures needed, including gathering evidence and statements, while the victim recovers from the animal attack. A competent lawyer will negotiate with insurance companies and argue your case in court for the maximum compensation available.
Oklahoma’s statute of limitations requires an injured person to file their personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries and damages within two years after the date of a dog bite attack. Personal injury lawsuits require a large number of documents and preparation, meaning that two years can go by quickly. This is especially true if the dog bite victim is recuperating and attempting to sue the owner of the dog without legal counsel.
Dog owners in Tulsa and throughout Oklahoma are always considered liable for any injuries their dog causes, with two main exceptions: if a dog is provoked or if a person is illegally trespassing on the owner’s property. Otherwise, owners are responsible for medical bills and any other damages when their animal attacks another person or a domestic animal. Further, dog owners can be held accountable for dog bite attacks on their property if the animal bites invited guests, as long as the person was not intentionally provoking or hurting the dog.
There are key elements of negligence on the part of the dog owner that must be proven when negotiating with insurance companies or arguing a case in court. These elements include:
While most animal attack victims suffer dog bites, there are many injuries that can occur from other actions by the dog. A small child or elderly person could be knocked down and suffer broken bones or other injuries from a dog pouncing. A dog that jumps or chases someone could cause the individual to run into traffic in an attempt to get away, bringing catastrophic medical costs if the person is hit by a car.
A dog owner can also be held accountable if their dog escaped a fence or other enclosure and attacked someone in another location. Regardless of where and when a dog attack occurs, Oklahoma’s strict liability laws mean that the owner of the dog is always liable.
In some states, there is a “one-bite rule” that says a dog gets one “free” bite before an owner can be held responsible. This can be very confusing and lead to a dog that is involved in multiple attacks without any liability. Oklahoma does not observe the one-bite rule, even if an owner has had no reason to consider their dog dangerous until a dog bite injury occurs.
Following an animal attack, you can depend on the experienced Tulsa dog bite attorneys at the law offices of Graves McLain. They will work tirelessly to ensure you receive justice. Contact us for a free consultation today online or by phone at 918-359-6600.
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