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Many La Crosse residents think of their dogs as furry members of the family. For some, pets fill the role of beloved best friend and cherished companion. They accompany family members on park outings and help them feel safe and secure at night.
Sadly, family dogs sometimes attack unsuspecting people as well. They don’t always cause life-threatening injuries, but all dogs have the physical capacity to cause serious injuries. Unfortunately, dogs attack children more than anyone else.
Despite their acceptance into family circles, dogs are animals and they respond to stimuli with inherent animal instincts. When a dog attacks, it’s often a reaction based on perceptions that adult victims don’t always notice and children don’t understand. The most vulnerable people become the most frequent bite victims. Because children are smaller and frailer, they also sustain some of the most severe injuries.
As you consider an owner’s liability for a dog’s actions, you must acknowledge that dogs are animals. They play and interact with their human family members, but their human owners must accept their legal duty to remain in control. When an owner fails to protect others from a dog’s actions, they become legally responsible.
If a dog bit you or your child in La Crosse, call Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers after you seek medical care. We can evaluate your claim for free and help you decide whether you should seek compensation for your medical costs as well as your pain and suffering.
The American Veterinary Medical Association is an advocacy organization that supports animal health and welfare. They understand that biting is completely within any dog’s character, so they take dog bite incidents seriously. They provide information to help dog owners and potential dog bite victims recognize the harm dogs sometimes cause.
The AVMA Dog Bite Prevention Page stresses that “any dog can bite.”
In explaining why, they describe how a dog attack is often a reaction to people, circumstances, or feelings.
Just like humans, dogs experience a range of emotions and reactions. Aggression is often their natural animal response, but they only attack when an owner fails to establish and maintain control. Dogs bite when owners fail to keep them on a leash, in the house, or securely fenced within a yard.
Dogs also bite when an owner encourages certain behaviors. Owners sometimes encourage children to interact with their dogs. When a child giggles, screeches, or gets excited, dogs sometimes react violently.
Some owners see dogs solely as a means of protection. They sometimes train their dogs to behave aggressively and encourage aggressive behavior. This type of training often becomes a dog’s everyday behavior. They don’t stop being aggressive, even when there is no danger.
Each year, as organizations promote National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the AVMA encourages owners to take a realistic look at dog bites. Sometimes, owners don’t see their family pets as being capable of causing serious harm. As an assurance, they stress that their dog has never bitten anyone.
The AVMA responds to this belief by explaining that even the “cuddliest, fuzziest” dogs bite. They publish national statistics from the Insurance Institute of America and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System.
For several years, Wisconsin was on the Insurance Information Institute’s top 10 dog bite list. The state recorded more reported and paid dog-related injury claims than most other states. Wisconsin is no longer on the list, but dog bite casualties still occur.
It’s difficult to determine the specific number of dog bite cases as enforcement authorities list them under the “animal bites” category. La Crosse County Health Department’s most recent annual report documents 260 animal bites and 196 biting-animal quarantines.
Wisconsin statutes Chapter 174 Dogs outlines a dog owner’s legal responsibilities. Section 174.02 describes a dog owner’s liability for injuries and damage. It also lists penalties for non-compliance. Section 174.001(5) clarifies that an owner is anyone who “owns, harbors, or keeps a dog.”
This statute further defines these relationships.
In most situations, a person is liable for a dog’s actions whether they harbor it or keep it.
Unlike some states, Wisconsin dog laws hold dog owners strictly liable for dog attack injuries and damage. Owners cannot avoid liability even if they have no notice of their dog’s prior acts. If an owner has prior notice of their dog’s involvement in a previous attack, it increases the damage and penalties.
When an owner has prior knowledge of their dog’s biting behavior, they owe two times the damages for certain injuries: bites that break the skin, disfigurement, and permanent physical scarring.
When a dog attacks you or a loved one, the pain goes away, but the emotional and physical scars often last a lifetime. Dogs often attack because they believe they’re defending their territory, family, or personal belongings. Like many animals, they attack aggressively.
Their sharp teeth easily pierce the skin and tear flesh, causing injuries or fatal wounds.
When a dog attacks a child, the teeth work efficiently. They cut through muscle tissue, break bones, and often cause permanent damage. Because of a child’s small stature, dogs often target their face and neck during an attack. Adults become more vulnerable as they age. Their skin, muscles, and bones sustain damage more easily.
Scarring and skin surface damage often affect an injured person long after the puncture wounds and lacerations heal. In some cases, plastic surgeons successfully repair the damage. In fact, the most recent annual statistics show that American plastic surgeons performed 47,454 dog bite-related scar revisions.
Unfortunately, surgery doesn’t always eliminate severe scars. Scars often cause image, self-esteem, and psychological issues.
It’s a cliché that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. It’s also not true. When a dog bites a human, its saliva often passes along bacteria that cause MRSA, rabies, capnocytophaga, tetanus, and osteomyelitis.
When a dog infects a young child, the young victim’s immature immune system can’t always fight off the disease. One pediatric dog bite scarring and infection study determined that trauma center “bedside” scar revision surgery frequently contributed to post-surgery infections.
Older adults deal with similar problems after a dog bite injury. Their aging immune systems can’t always fight off common dog-related infections.
When a dog bites you or a family member, a dog bite injury lawyer protects your legal rights while you focus on the healing process. They investigate the incident, place the responsible dog owner on notice, and intervene with insurance carriers and their legal representatives. Personal injury law firms work to produce the best results possible.
During your initial legal consultation, you have an opportunity to discuss your dog bite incident and injuries. A legal professional answers your questions and explains your legal rights. You decide when and if you want to make a claim or file a lawsuit.
If you or your child wound up in the hospital after a dog attack, Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers are here for you. Please take advantage of your free case review, where we can answer your questions, determine the strength of your claim, and make sure that no insurance companies take advantage of you during this difficult time.
La Crosse Office
205 5th Avenue S, Suite 209,
La Crosse, WI 54601