When Should You Sue For a Dog Bite?

Victims should sue for a dog bite if the animal attack causes an injury that requires medical treatment. The injuries that dog bite victims suffer are often severe, painful, and life-altering. It’s not uncommon for victims to require reconstructive surgery, suffer disfigurement, and rely on pain medications after a dog bite. Some dog bite victims are left with permanent disabilities and extensive emotional trauma when attacks are severe. Suing a pet owner or other responsible party after a dog bite can help victims receive money damages to help pay for their medical bills, replace their lost wages, and compensate them for the pain and suffering they have endured.

When Should You Sue for a Dog Bite in Nevada?

Nevada does not have a specific dog bite statute. Instead, dog bite victims can file lawsuits under negligence, negligence per se, scienter, and intentional tort doctrines. Individual cities and counties in Nevada may have ordinances that create strict liability, however. An experienced dog bite attorney will guide you through the steps to be taken after an animal attack and help you determine whether you should sue.  

Dog bite attacks must be reported to the Las Vegas Animal Control Agency. Following the report, the dog that attacked you will be quarantined for a period of 10 days. The 10-day isolation period is to ensure that the dog was not infected with rabies or some other type of communicable disease. Following the report, an investigation may be performed by the police. 

In Nevada, a dog is considered “dangerous” after just one bite, and dog owners will be required to take special precautions. Owners must protect others from the dangerous dog, and they must purchase a liability insurance policy of at least $50,000 in coverage. Liability limits usually average between $100,000 and $300,000, however. 

If it is found that the dog has a history of attacking people or other animals, it will be identified as a vicious dog. People are prohibited from keeping or giving away vicious dogs in Nevada, so the classification may result in the dog needing to be euthanized.

Who Can You Sue for a Dog Bite?

There may be several parties you can sue for a dog bite. Your personal injury lawyer will investigate your case to determine the parties who may be liable for your injuries and the insurance policies or other sources of recovery that may be available. 

First and foremost, you can sue the owner of the dog. Under Nevada Law, a dog owner is responsible if his or her dog attacks a victim. This is because Nevada holds the dog owner responsible for controlling the dog and preventing attacks. However, if the dog owner is a minor, the legal responsibility for the dog shifts to the dog owner’s parents.

Nevada adheres to the “one bite rule”. Under this rule, an owner may be liable if the dog previously attacked someone. The previous attack places the dog owner on notice of the dog’s violent nature. Additionally, the past attack imposes a legal duty on the dog owner to control the dog and take reasonable measures to prevent future attacks.

A dog owner also faces liability even if the dog has no previous history of biting people. Dog owners might be liable if they failed to use reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from attacking someone. For example, a dog owner may be negligent if the person allows the animal to play with children without supervision. Additionally, a dog owner may be liable if the dog had a known history of aggressive or menacing behavior towards people prior to the attack.

Dog owners may also face liability if they own a dog that has been deemed to be dangerous or vicious pursuant to Nevada Law. A dog is considered dangerous or vicious if it has a history of attacking people. Additionally, a dog may be considered dangerous or vicious if it has a history of acting in an aggressive or menacing manner on two occasions within an 18-month period. The previous instances of aggressive behavior must have occurred when the dog was in a public place and would have caused a reasonable person to defend himself or herself. Further, a dog may be deemed to be vicious or dangerous if the owner used the dog to commit a crime. 

There are many exceptions to classifying a dog as dangerous or vicious. A dog cannot be labeled as vicious based solely on its breed.  If a dog attacked a person in order to defend its owner or attacked a trespasser, it could not be labeled as vicious. Further, a dog cannot be labeled as vicious if it attacked a person or animal because it was provoked.

A dog owner could also be liable for injuries if the owner violated a local law regarding pet ownership. The violation of the statute may make the dog owner negligent per se. For example, a dog owner may be liable under a negligent per se theory, even if the dog had no history of violence if the owner failed to keep the dog on a leash while in a public place such as a park.

In addition to dog owners, a person who harbors or keeps the dog may be liable for injuries. People who keep or harbor dogs are often friends or relatives of dog owners who take temporary custody of the animals. If a dog attacks a person while in the custody of a “keeper,” that person may be held liable because the “keeper” had physical custody of the dog at the time the attack occurred.

Additionally, if the dog owner lives in a rental property, the landlord may be liable for the dog attack. Landlords have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe for potential visitors. This duty requires landlords to take measures to prevent dog attacks if they know a tenant owned a potentially dangerous dog. 

Proving A Dog Bite Claim

Proving dog bite liability in Nevada requires extensive investigation. A victim must prove the dog owner negligently failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the attack. A victim must prove all the elements of his or her claim by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., 51%. Depending on the legal theory under which a dog bite claim is being asserted, a Las Vegas personal injury attorney must gather evidence regarding the dog’s history of prior attacks or history of violence. An attorney must investigate whether the dog had been previously labeled as dangerous or vicious due to a prior attack or prior incidents of aggressive behavior. Additionally, an attorney will consider whether the dog owner used reasonable measures to prevent the attack. Finally, an attorney will take the victim’s behavior before the attack into account.

What Damages Are Available for Dog Bite Claims?

common dog bite injuries illustration

Dog attacks result in victims suffering severe physical injuries.  Common injuries include:

  • Severe Tissue Laceration
  • Muscle Damage
  • Broken Bones
  • Ligament Damage
  • Tendon Damage

Dog bite victims often need emergency medical treatment. Follow-up medical treatment such as surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and mental health therapy is usually required to ensure dog attack victims fully recover. The cost of this medical treatment can leave a victim deeply in debt. Depending on the length and intensity of the attack, a dog attack victim may suffer physical deformities in addition to becoming permanently disabled. 

Nevada allows dog bite victims to file a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include your past and future medical expenses. Further, if you lost time from work or were rendered unable to work, you can claim your past and future lost wages as part of your economic damages. Non-economic damages include the physical pain you suffered as a result of the dog attack, your mental suffering, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and permanent scarring or physical disfigurement that was caused by the attack.

Frequently Asserted Defenses

Due to the “one bite” rule, dog owners who face injury claims frequently argue that they lacked notice of the animal’s violent behavior. They also argue that they used reasonable care to prevent the attack or that the victim provoked the dog before the incident. Another common defense is that the dog defended the owner when the attack happened. A dog owner might also use the defense of comparative negligence to reduce the value of a victim’s claim. Nevada uses the legal doctrine of modified comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, a personal injury victim can still recover compensation if his or her negligence contributed to the injuries. The victim’s level of negligence cannot exceed 50%. The award the victim receives is reduced in proportion to his or her level of negligence. For example, if a victim obtains a $10,000 award but is found to be 30% at fault, his or her award is reduced to $7,000.