The dog bite laws in Louisiana allow bite victims to hold the animal’s owner responsible if there is a known history of aggressive behavior. The statutes also define what makes an animal “dangerous.” This effectively gives dogs in Louisiana one “free” bite before their owner is held accountable.
In some cases, it may be possible to build a claim or lawsuit for damages based on negligence instead of using the state’s dog bite laws.
Louisiana Dog Owners Are Responsible for Their Pets’ Bad Behavior
The primary dog bite law on the books in Louisiana is CC §2321, which holds the dog’s owner strictly liable for their pet’s aggressive actions. However, it requires that the owner knew the dog had a history of similar behavior or “in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known” that the dog was capable of causing injuries.
The victim will also need to show the owner failed to take reasonable actions to prevent the attack and that the injuries would not have happened if the dog was in a fence, on a leash, or otherwise contained.
Dogs with a known propensity to act out aggressively are sometimes called “dangerous dogs,” and there are strict rules about how they must be handled and kept. The dog bite laws in Louisiana include a statute that defines a “dangerous dog.” This statute can play a key role in a dog bite case.
The rules for owning a dangerous dog are under RS §14:102.14. It may be possible to show that the dog’s owner did not follow these rules despite being aware of what their dog is capable of doing to a bite victim.
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Dog Bites Require Medical Care and Could Result in Serious Complications
Any time a dog punctures the skin, the bite will require medical treatment. Emergency medical care may be necessary when injuries:
- Are severe
- Affect a large area of the body
- Are bleeding heavily
- Affect the hands, face, neck, or other sensitive areas
- Penetrate the victim’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bone
Other penetrating injuries may only need cleaning and evaluation, which could come from an urgent care facility, a walk-in clinic, or your family doctor. It is vital to get this care as quickly as possible, though. There are several reasons why this is important, including the following:
- Documenting the injuries suffered in the incident
- Ensuring more significant injuries are not present
- Cleaning the wounds for infection prevention
Some doctors may prescribe medications to reduce the risk of infection or recommend a special cleaning regimen for dog bite injuries. A dog’s mouth is home to a lot of bacteria, and bite wounds easily become infected. This can become septic quickly and cause severe illness and even death.
Preserving Your Rights After a Dog Bite
State law gives you the right to seek compensation in cases where a dog attacked you or your child (a personal injury case) or when your loved one passed away due to dog bite complications (a wrongful death case).
You can take several steps to preserve your rights in this situation. One of the most important may be to seek legal representation as soon as possible. A dog bite attorney can guide you through the steps required to receive compensation, including the following.
Determining Which Laws Apply
Your case could be subject to any number of state laws depending on:
- How old the dog bite victim is
- How serious the injuries are
- Where, when, and how the bite occurred
- Whether the dog has attacked others in the past
Your attorney will listen carefully as you explain what happened and help you determine which laws apply to your case.
Calculating Your Damages
Louisiana state law only limits the amount of damages you can collect under very specific circumstances—for example, if you are suing the state. This is good news for dog bite victims; the liable party is unlikely to be a political or government entity, so you can seek as much as you believe your injuries are worth.
Before filing your case, your lawyer will investigate all aspects of the dog bite incident. This not only allows them to establish the liable party’s guilt, but it also proves how serious your injuries are and enables them to calculate how much you should seek in damages. Evidence a lawyer can use to calculate your damages includes:
- Bills, receipts, or other documents showing the amount you have spent due to your injuries
- Tax information, pay stubs, or other documents showing the wages you could not earn due to your injuries
- Testimony from friends, family, medical staff, or yourself concerning how the injuries have affected you and your quality of life
- Testimony from experts who can help calculate future costs and losses you are likely to suffer due to the dog bite
Negotiating a Settlement
Assuming the liable party has a proper amount of insurance, you will be seeking your compensation from their insurance company. If the liable party is not insured, you must seek compensation from them directly, and their personal assets may limit the amount you can recover.
In either situation, an attorney with experience in dog bite cases may make it easier for you to fight for the money you deserve. They could:
- Arrange to speak and meet with the liable party and their insurance company
- Negotiate with the insurance company for a settlement that meets all of your current and projected needs
- Draw up a settlement agreement
- Answer your questions about the settlement agreement before you sign any paperwork
- Take the liable party to court if their insurance company refuses to settle for an appropriate amount
- Represent you in the courtroom by arguing your case, submitting trial exhibits, questioning witnesses, and more
Pursuing Compensation for Your Louisiana Dog Bite Injuries
A dog bite case falls under Louisiana’s personal injury laws. This means you may be able to file an insurance claim or sue the dog’s owner for compensation that covers your related expenses and losses.
A personal injury lawyer will likely review your case for free and represent you based on contingency fees if they believe they can recover damages for you. You should not have to pay any attorney’s fees unless your attorney secures a payout in your case. Some of the recoverable damages in a dog bite claim could include the following:
Current and Future Medical Care Expenses
Dog bites can be grievous and require extensive surgeries, physical therapy, and long-term aftercare. Fortunately, these expenses may be recovered in a dog bite-related lawsuit.
Surgery for Scarring or Releasing Scar Tissue
Plastic surgery may be needed to reduce scarring, and scar tissue release therapy may also be used to relieve discomfort, dark coloring, fascial adhesions, or congestion of scar tissue. An attorney experienced in dog bite cases may recover damages related to these treatments.
Mental Health Counseling Related to the Attack
Dog attacks can be terrifying and traumatic, and it is not uncommon for victims of dog bites to experience post-traumatic stress disorder and overall emotional distress following an incident. Behavioral therapy and counseling can help with these issues, and victims may incur damages related to mental health care.
Lost Wages and Diminished Earning Ability
Dog bites can be so severe that a victim must take time off work to heal physically and emotionally. Lost income in the past, present, and future may be recoverable in a dog bite lawsuit. Due to certain egregious injuries, this income may also include long-term or even permanently lessened earning ability.
Compensation for Permanent Impairments
Tragically, some dog attack victims may incur irreversible impairments they may have to live with for the rest of their lives. Although such suffering may be challenging to place an exact number on, some damages can be awarded for mental and physical health issues that are unlikely to be relieved.
Physical Pain and Suffering
Pain itself is not quantifiable in the sense that other than the use of pain-relieving remedies, an exact monetary value cannot be placed upon it. Many people who experience dog bites suffer from long-term pain, which may not be eased by medication, surgery, or therapy. In a dog bite lawsuit, damages related to the pain suffered by the defendant may be awarded.
Loss of Consortium or Services
If the injuries had a significant impact on the relationship between the dog-bite victim and their spouse, they might receive compensation for loss of consortium, including lost companionship or intimacy.
The Severity of the Bite
Dog bites range in severity, and there are many ways of grading this. One of the most popular ways is Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale. This scale considers the seriousness of the injury and includes the following levels:
- Level 1: Obnoxious or aggressive behavior but no skin contact by teeth.
- Level 2: Skin contact is made but there are no punctures, possibly only minor lacerations
- Level 3: Up to four shallow punctures from a single bite and potentially minor lacerations related to pulling the biting dog or victim’s body part away
- Level 4: Up to four deep punctures from a single bite and bruising or lacerations from the dog holding on tightly or shaking
- Level 5: Multiple bites occurring with greater than two Level 4 bites
- Level 6: Victim death
An owner whose conduct was considered to be especially reckless or willful—for example, repeatedly letting a dangerous dog run loose—may be penalized by having to pay an additional amount above what is needed to compensate the victim.
These damages are intended to hurt the dog’s owner financially and send a powerful message to prevent similar future behavior. Generally, you only have one year from the date of an attack to sue the dog’s owner under CC §3492. However, many dog bite victims are children.
The deadlines that apply when the victim is very young could differ. Your attorney can explain how quickly you need to act to hold the dog’s owner responsible for the dog bite injuries.
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Contact an Attorney at Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers About Your Louisiana Dog Bite Case
If you or your child suffered injuries in a Louisiana dog bite incident, Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers wants to discuss what happened, the injuries suffered, and other details with you. We will evaluate your case for free to help you understand how you can take action against the dog’s owner.
Our team represents dog bite victims and their families based on contingency. Contact us today to learn more about how we may be able to help you.