Articles Posted in Dog Bites

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A state appeals court issued an opinion stemming from injuries a Tennessee woman suffered while encountering two dogs. The woman and her daughter were walking on a sidewalk adjacent to a Whole Foods Market when two dogs began barking at the pair. The dogs began barking aggressively at the woman’s daughter; in response, the woman picked up some rocks and threw them towards the dogs to distract them so that her daughter could get away. The dogs began to charge at the woman, and as she was running away, she fell into a chair and sustained injuries to her hip and arms.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the company that operated the business the dogs escaped from. They alleged that their owners were liable under Tennessee Code 44-8-413, which mandates that dog owners maintain a duty to keep their dog “under reasonable control at all times and from keeping their dogs from running at large.” Further, the statute explains that those who breach the duty may be liable for civil damages to the injury victim.

In this case, the company argued that the statute did not apply to them because they were not the “owner” of the dog. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs might claim that the business had temporary custody or control of the animals; however, this temporary control is insufficient to impose liability. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, and the appeals court reversed the summary judgment.

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When we think about dogs, we normally imagine our pets, the dogs we have adopted into our families. Most dog owners would never even consider that their dogs may be dangerous to others.

Unfortunately, not all dogs are friendly, and dog bites, though rare, do happen. A dog bite can be very dangerous, leaving victims severely injured and psychologically traumatized. When the attack involves a small child, these injuries can be compounded. If you or someone you know has sustained a personal injury due to a dog bite, you may want to contact a dog bite attorney.

Knoxville Child Bitten by Dog

Recently, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that a two year-old girl sustained severe injuries after having a portion of her face bitten off by her babysitter’s dog. The child’s mother was picking the child up from the babysitter’s residence when the incident occurred. The babysitter’s dog had been locked in a separate room and the mother asked the babysitter to let the dog out to play with her daughter. The babysitter initially refused, asserting that the dog was not friendly towards children, but the mother insisted. The child and dog were sitting on the floor when the dog bit the child. According to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, this is the second time since October that deputies responded to a call about the same dog biting a young child.
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A 4-year-old Union County girl received more than 200 stitches and staples in her face after being attacked by the family’s coon hound.

The animal was a rescue dog the family took in several months ago. The animal has been given to the Union County Humane Society. Its fate is uncertain, although the family reportedly thinks it should be euthanized, rather than readopted. Meanwhile, according to news reports, the family is struggling to determine insurance coverage as doctors say the little girl will need months of treatment.

We are a nation of dog lovers. The Humane Society of the United States reports about 40 percent of U.S. households own 78.2 million dogs. Unfortunately, serious and fatal dog attacks are not uncommon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog each year — or more than 12,000 dog bites per day!

Nearly 1 million victims a year seek emergency medical treatment and more than 30,000 are forced to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Tennessee dog bite law was updated by the legislature in 2007 and now establishes strict liability for dog owners only under certain circumstances. The Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, T.C.A. sec. 44-8-413, provides that dogs must be under reasonable control and not running at large. “A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another.”

There is also no liability for injuries that occur on a dog-owner’s property unless the victim proves scienter, meaning that the dog owner knew or should have known of a dog’s dangerous propensities. The Insurance Information Institute reports more than 50 percent of dog bites occur on a dog owner’s property. Thus, under the new law, guests in a dog owner’s home may not be covered by his insurance, while strangers on the street enjoy full protection. Tennessee is unique in having passed such a “residential exclusion,” which is certain to undergo a battery of legal challenges as these cases make their way through the system.

As it stands now, a victim bitten on a dog owner’s property must prove the defendant owned the dog, the dog caused the injuries, and the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous. As we see in this case, the rescue dog responsible for the attack could well be “rescued” again by another unknowing family.

The truth of the matter is these cases frequently involve a pet known to the victim, whether a family member’s, neighbor’s or close family friend’s. And children are the most likely victim.

The risks increase as children begin spending more time inside with pets. End-of-year family gatherings and new pets invited into the family during the holidays also increase the risk. While adopting a dog, rescuing an animal or taking in a stray can be admirable alternatives to the pet store, none of these options are without risk. Choose a pet carefully. Supervise its interaction with the family and teach young children how to stay safe around dogs, whether the neighborhood pet or a stray on the street.
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