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What Are My Rights if I’m Attacked by My Neighbor’s Dog?

Having a dog as a pet is as American as apple pie. Canines are the most popular animal to have as a part of our families. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, almost 40% of households have a dog (about 25% have a cat).

Most of the time, people and dogs peacefully share space and time together. Movies like “A Dog’s Purpose” and “Marley and Me” tug at our hearts.

That’s why it is sometimes particularly surprising when a dog becomes aggressive. Each year, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. About 20% of people bitten by a dog require medical attention.

If you are bitten by someone else’s dog (or another animal), you may have the grounds for a personal injury lawsuit to pay for the damages you have incurred. Call Hope Law Firm at (515) 298-5056 to discuss your case.

Responsibilities of Dog Owners

Iowa law states that the dog’s owner is liable for all damages caused by a dog. An exception would be if a person is breaking into someone’s home, or another unlawful act, and is bitten by a dog. The law goes beyond biting. Any act the dog makes that harms another qualified under the law. For example, if a dog jumps up on you, knocks you down to the ground, and causes a concussion, the owner might be held liable.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Iowa

Some states have a “one-bite rule” when it comes to dogs. Generally, that means the owner is not liable unless the dog has bitten once before. In those cases, the owner should reasonably be aware that the dog could potentially bite again. Iowa, on the other hand, follows “strict liability.”

Strict liability means that the owner is liable even if the dog had never bitten before and if the owner was not at fault in any way (like letting the dog roam free). Liability exceptions include if the person attacked was committing an unlawful act when bitten or if they provoked the dog in some way. Another exception is if the dog has rabies, and the owner was taking appropriate precautionary measures.

Get Medical Attention Immediately for Dog Bites

If you have a moderate or more severe injury, you should seek appropriate medical attention right away.

Unattended dog bites can become infected and cause these symptoms:

  • Swelling around the wound
  • Pain that continues more than 24 hours
  • Difficulty moving the area that was bitten

If the infection spreads to other parts of the body, symptoms will include fever and night sweats. In severe situations, what started as a dog bite could lead to sepsis, which can be life-threatening.

Rabies is less common in domesticated dogs, but it does happen. A dog bite can also infect its victim with tetanus bacteria.

Dog Bites as a Personal Injury Case

Depending on the severity of the attack, the victim may have immediate and ongoing medical costs. They might also not be able to work or perform normal household duties. That bite or attack could affect multiple areas of the victim’s life. These cases often qualify for a personal injury lawsuit.

Iowa has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. That means you have two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. Once that time passes, you can no longer make a claim.

There are several different types of compensation that can be awarded in personal injury cases:

  • Economic Damages. These damages are costs that have a specific dollar amount attached, such as medical bills, prescription costs, physical therapy, and lost wages.
  • Non-Economic Damages. These damages include pain and suffering and loss of companionship – losses that have no receipt, bill, or paystub to assign a value.
  • Punitive Damages. Also called exemplary damages, these are only awarded in limited circumstances where the person at fault willfully engaged in behavior that displayed a wanton disregard to the other persona’s safety.

At Hope Law Firm, our experience enables us to be compassionate with our clients while zealously advocating for their due compensation. We want to help you get back on your feet and eliminate the mountain of bills caused by the injury.

If you have financial and emotional damages from a dog bite, talk to one of our experienced attorneys. Contact Hope Law Firm online or call (515) 298-5056. Initial consultations are always free.

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