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Premises Liability Lawyer in Rhode Island: Understanding Dog Bites and Attacks

Even though they are said to be “man's best friend,” dog bites and dog attacks in Rhode Island are fairly common. The experience alone can be traumatizing even when the injury itself may not be significant. Victims who have been hurt deserve to be fully compensated for their injuries, including any pain and suffering.

At the Law Office of Melissa Larsen, Esq., we will make sure you get full and fair compensation. We know how to deal with insurance companies and other potentially liable parties. Call or text us at 401-218-0862 to schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about how we will help you during this traumatic time.

Dog Bite Statistics

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 4.5 million dog bites occur every single year. Those bites, however, come in a wide variety of severities, with only about one in five – 885,000 of them – requiring medical attention. Fatalities from dog bites are rare, but do occur occasionally.

Why Do Dogs in RI Bite People and Who Is At Fault?

Dog owners are typically at fault for their dog's behavior. As such, dog owners are typically liable for any injuries caused by their dogs. Generally, there are two legal theories that help courts determine when a person is at fault or legally liable for a dog attack and, thus, must pay damages: strict liability and one-bite rule.

  1. Strict Liability. This theory suggests that the dog owner is always liable for an attack on a person by their dog. This is true even when the owner tries to prevent or takes measures to mitigate dog bites or attacks. The dog owner may defend against the plaintiff if they can prove the plaintiff somehow provoked the dog into the attack.  In RI the strict liability rule applies if the dog bite occurs anywhere but on the owner's property.
  2. One-Bite Rule. This rule applies when the victim enters the owner's property.  If the god has never bit before, the owner may not have knowledge that the dog may bite a person. theory involves prior knowledge that the owner's dog may bite or attack another person. When the owner has knowledge or is aware the dog has a proclivity toward aggressive behavior, the owner must take measures to secure the dog from other people.

Examples of Why Dogs Bite

Dogs bite people in RI and elsewhere for many reasons. Some of the most common include:

  • The dog is chained or otherwise in some kind of stressful situation.
  • The dog is trained to attack.
  • The dog feels scared or threatened or is otherwise provoked.
  • The dog has experienced abuse in the past.
  • The dog wants to protect itself, its guardians, or its puppies.
  • The dog is ill.

Provocation and Dog Bites

It is important to note, though, that regardless of why the dog barked, you are not at fault unless you in some way provoked the dog. Provocation is pretty much any act that causes an immediate and radical change in the dog's behavior. It can include but is not limited to:

  • Hitting the dog
  • Trapping the dog in a small space
  • Pulling on its tail, legs, ears, or fur
  • Stepping on its tail 

If you provoked the dog, then the other party may be able to blame you for the attack. As such, it is important to note what is not necessarily considered provocation in the event the defendant tries to claim it:

  • Walking toward a dog
  • Walking towards and/or addressing the owner
  • Being seating and getting up to face the dog
  • Reaching to pet the dog
  • Playing with and petting the dog
  • Feeding a dog
  • Extending a hand over or through a fence
  • Transporting the dog when it is injured

Provocation may be determined by the overall circumstances, and so again, that is why contacting a dog bite attorney in Rhode Island may be critical because the outcome of the case can turn on how the facts and circumstances are argued.

What to Do If Attacked by a Dog in Rhode Island

When a dog bites or attacks a person, the injury could be serious. There are a few things you will want to do to protect yourself. 

  1. It's always important to get medical attention immediately. 
  2. Be sure to obtain the dog owner's contact information, homeowner's or renter's insurance information, and proof of rabies vaccination. 
  3. If there were any witnesses to the attack, make sure to collect their names and contact information, too. 
  4. Take photos of the scene and the injury.
  5. Contact the police or your local animal control agency.

The most important thing if attacked or bitten by a dog is your personal safety. Take all precautions to get help as soon as possible.

Most Damaging Dog Bites by Breed

The breed may matter in terms of the severity of the dog bite. The most damaging dog bites by breed are unknown, according to a study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, because the breed of the dog causing the injury was unknown. The breeds that follow the “unknown” category for most damaging bites include:

  • Pit bulls
  • German shepherds
  • Terriers
  • Rottweilers

Other dog breeds with the capability to cause severe injuries which were less likely to bite as compared to the above-listed breeds are Great Danes and Akitas. Bite severity was assessed according to wound size, tissue tearing, bone fractures, and other injuries severe enough to require facial trauma or reconstructive surgery. 

Common Injuries from Dog Attacks in RI

The injuries that victims can suffer in a dog attack can be severe and life-changing. Some of the most severe include:

  • Severe lacerations, often requiring numerous stitches or sutures
  • Serious infections
  • Nerve damage
  • Dismembered fingers
  • Partial paralysis
  • Chronic pain
  • Scarring

These are just the physical symptoms that a dog bite victim has to live with. Victims frequently experience emotional distress and mental anguish from the attack as well. In some severe cases, it can even amount to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Children are the Most Vulnerable

Children are the most likely to be hurt in a dog attack, especially young children under the age of 4. These children do not understand how dangerous a dog can be. Many of them think that all dogs are friendly and may approach a strange dog to pet it without their parents or the dog's owner noticing until it is too late.

Unfortunately, these are the very victims that are most likely to suffer the worst consequences of a serious dog bite. Not only is the mental anguish of a dog attack likely to haunt them more intensely than it would an adult, but the physical injuries that a child suffers are more likely to have serious long-term repercussions on their growth and development.

Contact Melissa Larsen, Esq. if you are the victim of a Dog Bite Injury in Rhode Island

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from another person's dog, the owner may be held accountable for the injury and, thus, liable for compensation. At the Law Office of Melissa Larsen, Esq., we want to make sure members of our community who have been injured or who have had, in rare circumstances, a loved one die from a dog attack are fully compensated. Contact us by calling or texting to 401-218-0862 to schedule a free initial consultation and get a better understanding of your specific dog bite injury case.

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Attorney Larsen handles all types of Criminal, Family Law, and Personal Injury cases. Attorney Larsen will help you successfully navigate your case.

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Melissa Larsen is prepared to answer your questions regarding DUI/Chemical Test Refusals, Criminal Defense, Family Law, and Personal Injury cases in all four Rhode Island counties. Attorney Larsen is eager to discuss your case, contact her today for a free consultation.