An eight-year-old girl who was critically injured in a dog attack was recently awarded $36 million by a jury in Georgia. The girl was attacked by several dogs, causing one of her arms to be amputated. Dog bite injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case and dog attack liability.
The jury in this case initially awarded the girl and her family $72 million in her injury lawsuit, however, the judge later reduced the amount to $36 million. The suit was filed against the owner of the dogs that attacked the little girl and left her permanently disabled. The woman was charged with reckless conduct, violation of vicious dog ordinances, and failing to have his dogs vaccinated for rabies. She was also sentenced to 16 months in jail.
Most states have what's known as strict liability dog statutes, meaning that the dog owners are liable if their dog causes an injury regardless of whether or not they knew it was dangerous. Many cover any kind of dog-inflicted injuries, not just bites or attacks. These are called "strict liability" because the injured victim does not have to prove that the owner was negligent or did anything wrong to cause the injury.
To file a successful lawsuit in a state with this type of dog bite law, victims have to prove four things:
1. The victim did not provoke the dog to bite or attack
2. The victim was indeed attack, and it caused an injury
3. The owner is the person being sued
4. The victim was acting peacefully in a place they could lawfully be (so not trespassing on someone's property)
In many cases, a claim can be filed even if the injury is not directly from a bite. For example, if a dog ran out and frightened someone, or started chasing someone and they fell and were injured, they may still be able to recover compensation.
Some states do only cover dog bites and attacks, however, and some states allow a dog owner to escape liability if they can prove that the dog was provoked. The victim has to prove that the injury was caused by a dog biting, attacking, wounding, killing, or chasing someone or something (such as another dog).
In Illinois, injured victims must only prove that they were not provoking the dog or trespassing to have a successful liability claim.
According to the CDC, more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and hundreds of thousands require serious medical attention. About half of those bitten are children, and since they are closer to dogs' mouths, their faces are more vulnerable to serious bites.