Most of us have had a scary experience with dogs at one point in our lives. When I was a kid, my mom and I both were terrified of dogs – to the point of making friends and family members put their dogs up when we came over. Watching a pit bull clamp its jaws around a little dog’s neck and shake it violently, killing the dog, didn’t help me or my mom’s fear of dogs. That image has certainly been burned into my mind.
Thankfully, over the years I have become a dog lover and will hopefully get my own dog one of these days. Much to the surprise of our entire family, my mom recently got a dog of her own. To this day, however, my mom still fears a pit bull will attack Luna while they’re out walking.
Dangerous dogs – or dogs we think of as dangerous – can cause serious injuries to people. If witnessing another dog being attacked can leave a lasting impression, imagine what actually being attacked by a dog can do. But, is the dog really at fault? We don’t think so. It’s the humans who had the chance to prevent the dog from attacking others that are dangers to the community.
Owning a large dog, or any dog, comes with great responsibility. For instance, dog owners (and sometimes property owners and managers) must maintain fences or enclosures to prevent dangerous dogs from attacking others. And sometimes certain people who just can’t handle their large dogs shouldn’t own them. I’ve even seen people letting their large dogs run free around neighborhoods. That’s begging for trouble. Responsible dog owners know what they should do, and usually a dog attack is caused by someone failing to do their part. Most of the time, people in a position to prevent dog attacks know just how dangerous their dog is but do nothing to prevent their dog from harming others.
Dangerous dogs don’t always go after other dogs. Sometimes they go for humans. They clamp their powerful jaws on arms, wrists, and other parts of the body and can cause significant injuries and a lot of pain. To add insult to injury, you might have to keep the wounds uncovered and let them ooze for weeks, getting in the way of just about everything. Even worse, some dog owners don’t get their dogs vaccinated. Now you’re anxiously waiting for the results of your rabies test.
Why do dog attacks happen?
Dog attacks primarily happen because their owners are irresponsible. The owner of a dangerous dog may not be able control their animal. Sometimes, owners of dangerous dogs have broken fences that the dog can easily escape through. Surprisingly, a lot of dog and property owners know about the dangers of their dogs, know about the holes in their fences (for example), but refuse to take easy and inexpensive measures to protect others from the danger.
Who is responsible for dog attacks?
Typically, the dog owner can be held legally responsible for the pain and injuries caused by the dangerous dog. In some situations, property owners and management companies can also be held responsible. Whether a property manager and other property owners can be held accountable for failing to prevent dangerous dog attacks often depends on how much knowledge they have about the dog and the conditions that allowed the attack.
Rental property owners and, management companies can be held responsible for dog attacks when they are aware there is a dangerous dog on their property yet fail to take measures to keep others safe. A common example is when a renter has a broken fence and a dangerous dog, but the property owner/property management company fails to fix the fence. Another frequent situation is when a renter’s dog attacks someone, yet the property owner/property management company refuses to evict the tenant or make the tenant send the dog elsewhere (to a family member’s house, of course).
Who is most likely to be attacked by a dog?
Anyone can be attacked by a dangerous dog because someone else chooses to unsafely and carelessly raise or handle their pet. Like the dog attack I witnessed as a child, people walking their dogs are particularly vulnerable to an attack. This is because vicious dogs have a tendency to attack other dogs. And if you are like most dog owners, you will do just about anything to protect them. That includes fighting the attacking dog, potentially leading to some nasty dog bites. Other individuals who are particularly susceptible to dog attacks are delivery people and small children. With small children and the elderly, large dogs can easily knock them down, causing some serious injuries.
Are dog attacks covered by insurance policies?
Most homeowners and renters insurance policies cover dog attacks. In some states, insurance companies have refused to cover certain dog breeds (like pit bulls and rottweilers). Here at Tepperman Law, we are not big fans of insurance companies. Some insurance companies spend up to a billion dollars (you read that right) in advertising. They then collect many billions of dollars in insurance premiums. They keep their money by devaluing people who are hurt and delay paying them for as long as possible. Insurance is a big business and compensating those who were injured is not often high on their list of priorities.
Life after dog attacks
Though I have never been attacked by a dog myself, the experience of witnessing that violent dog attack and representing clients who have been the victims of dog attacks has certainly left an imprint on my life. I’m usually careful when first meeting a dog. But the fear of knowing what dogs can do to people and other animals hasn’t kept me from loving dogs. And that fear, apparently, hasn’t kept my mom from getting a dog of her own. At Tepperman Law, we hope that victims of dog attacks can get over those fears and one day love dogs despite what a dog has done to them. It’s really important to remember that the dogs aren’t usually the problem. It’s the people who choose to ignore the danger signs. At Tepperman Law, we hold those careless people accountable.
Should I talk to the responsible person/business' insurance company?
While the commercials make them seem nice and friendly, insurance companies are anything but. They make billions of dollars by collecting premium payments while at the same time paying out as little as possible to people who were injured. Insurance companies treat injured people as algorithms without much care for how your life has changed. Insurance companies often won't even pay for the total amount of actual medical bills. The bottom line is that insurance companies fight to pay you as little as possible to save their bottom line.
In short, you should never talk to the other person’s insurance companies. As we know, insurance companies are more interested in protecting themselves than in paying what is fair and right. Anything you say to them can be used against you if the case goes to court. No matter what you say, the insurance company will find a way to twist your words and use them against you.
You may have to file a lawsuit to get what you are owed from the other person. In Texas (and lots of other states), a lawsuit is filed against the responsible person or company. Although the responsible party’s insurance company covers the defense costs and, typically, the final amount owed to you, court rules generally prohibit ever mentioning insurance in front of a jury. Tepperman Law strongly believes in the jury system and that the jury system is the only way to keep insurance companies honest.