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Key Factors for Winning a Dog Bite Injury Lawsuit: Insights from a Personal Injury Lawyer

Shay + Associates Law Firm personal injury lawyer in Springfield and Decatur, Illinois

The primary goal of a dog bite lawsuit is to prove liability for the injury. You or your attorney must convince the court that you did not provoke the dog in any way. Certain facts — such as whether or not the animal showed signs of threateningly aggressive behavior in the past — can help win your case. Read on to determine what information you should have during the litigation of a dog bite suit.

The Dog’s Temperament

Like people, dogs have different dispositions. However, while certain dog breeds are more aggressive than others, not all jurisdictions expect the victim to assume that they are at risk of being bitten if they interact with a particular dog breed.

Although a dog’s aggression may be attributed to a hyperactive or overaggressive temperament, an underlying medical problem can increase a dog’s aggressiveness in some cases. Hip pain, hypothyroidism, and seizures can cause behavior changes in a normally friendly dog that may lead to anxiety and aggression. Hip dysplasia, in particular, increases the risk of large dogs becoming aggressive.

Research also suggests that dogs who already act aggressively can become even more aggressive when they are in pain. Therefore, the court may consider that knowledge of a dog’s health status, confirmed by the animal’s veterinarian, places more liability for the incident on the dog’s owner. The court may take the position that the owner should have known that their sick pet might bite.

The Dog’s Behavior History

A dog’s temperament alone won’t win your case. However, the animal’s previous behavior history can help. How well a dog has been socialized, especially as a puppy, can play a role in how aggressive the animal may become.

While it’s not true in every case, generally, dogs that are housed outdoors tend to be less socialized than indoor dogs. Similar to humans, dogs are social creatures. Therefore, without adequate social interaction, they can get bored and lonely. They may also become aggressive, especially when a child, adult, or another animal enters what they consider to be their territory.

Not all dogs who are kept chained are necessarily more aggressive, but canines who are chained or confined for long periods of time can become anxious, neurotic, and aggressive. This can make them more likely to bite or attack when approached.

The court will evaluate various aspects of the dog’s behavior, including its bark tone and whether it displayed stiff body posture, lunging, growling, snarling, and bared teeth prior to the attack. A judge or jury will also take into account that some dogs become aggressive only in certain situations, such as if it is provoked in some way.

The Type of Aggression

When litigating a dog bite case, the type of aggression the dog displayed can either help or hinder whether you win. Even if the dog in question has attacked other dogs or animals in the past, that doesn’t mean the dog will attack a human. You may have a better case if another dog was present when the incident occurred. Your case will also be stronger if the dog has bitten someone in the past and is known as a risk.

However, some dogs become aggressive out of fear. Whether male or female, young or old, if a canine perceives a threat, it may try to get a quick bite before running away. Dogs that feel cornered may take a defensive position that includes snarling and growling before striking.

Therefore, during the litigation of a dog bite case, the court may consider whether or not the dog gave warning before biting, giving you time to retreat.

The Description of Your Injury

When seeking treatment for a dog bite injury, how the physician documents the injury can make a difference in how the court looks at your case. A puncture wound or injury that breaks bones or damages tendons and ligaments differs from a less serious dog bite that tears or bruises the skin.

Dogs in defensive mode usually bite only once in an attempt to remove a threat. This is different from a dog attack. Dogs that display offensive aggression often bite multiple times, inflicting injury to more than one part of the body. This type of injury usually involves deep puncture wounds.

Regardless of the seriousness of your injury, you will need documentation to back your claim. Provide copies of the doctor’s original diagnosis detailing the extent of your injuries, as well as his or her final prognosis listing any long-term effects or physical limitations your injuries may cause.

Along with medical records showing the treatment you received when you were first injured and after, supply medical documentation of any treatment you may continue to need in the future as a result of your injuries. Include additional evidence, such as copies of your medical bills and photographs of your injuries, that can help support your case.

If you’ve been bitten by a dog and the injury was serious, contact a personal injury lawyer at Shay & Associates to get a fair injury settlement whether through litigation or negotiating with the dog’s owner.

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