Dogs are widely viewed as man’s best friend, but they still have animal instincts that can cause serious injury to innocent bystanders. Dogs will bite when they are startled, feel threatened, or are poorly socialized. Rottweilers, pit bulls, and Labradors are most likely to bite, but all dog breeds have been associated with serious and even fatal injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year—with 800,000 of those bites needing medical care. Our firm has also seen a number of clients with serious injuries caused by dogs that are not bite-related—including three individuals suffering broken legs after being attacked by dangerous dogs.
Understanding Alaska Dog Bite and Dog Attack Laws
Alaska is somewhat unique in that it is one of only a few states with no statute covering dog bite and dog attack liability. Cases are decided based on the precedent established by existing personal injury law and previous court decisions. Key points to remember include:
- Statute of limitations. Cases must be filed within two years of injury unless your claim meets one of the limited exceptions to extend the filing window. The court will refuse to hear claims outside the statute of limitations.
- “One bite” rule. Alaska uses the “one bite” rule to evaluate claims involving dangerous dogs. This means the owner must have known or had reason to know that the dog was aggressive. However, the dog doesn’t need to have bitten someone in the past if there is other evidence available to point to aggressive behavior.
- Third-party liability. Although owners are primarily liable for a dog’s conduct, landlords or rental management companies can also be held responsible if they know there is a dangerous dog on the property.
- Potential defenses. The most common defense used in a dog bite or dog attack case is that the defendant did not know the animal was dangerous. However, the defendant may also attempt to argue that comparative negligence places partial fault with the victim or that the injuries occurred while trespassing.
Depending on the circumstances, a personal injury settlement involving injuries caused by a dangerous dog can include compensation for:
- Medical costs. Dog bites can result in injuries ranging from lacerations and infections to broken bones and nerve damage. Your claim can include all medical costs related to the accident, as well as any anticipated future medical care related to a disabling or disfiguring injury.
- Lost wages. Serious dog bite attacks can easily result in weeks or even months of missed work. In some cases, injuries may lead to a permanent loss of earning potential.
- Pain and suffering. In addition to the physical pain of a dog bite, this type of injury can have lasting emotional effects. Victims may need counseling for PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
- Property damage. It’s important not to overlook the need to replace personal items such as clothing, eyeglasses, jewelry, or shoes that were damaged in the attack.
- Injuries to children. When a dog attack involves injuries to a child, the settlement includes compensation for the young victim’s damages as well as the costs incurred by their parent or guardian.
- Wrongful death. If a dog attack results in fatal injuries, the victim’s next of kin can file a wrongful death claim that includes compensation for funeral and burial costs as well as loss of companionship and the damages that would have been included in a personal injury claim if the victim had survived.
Punitive damages are rare in most types of personal injury claims, but Alaska courts have ruled that victims can seek punitive damages if a dog's owner acted with malice or reckless indifference in causing injury to others.
Contact Our Anchorage, Alaska, Dog Bite and Dog Attack Attorney
Working with an experienced attorney who handles personal injury claims related to dog bites and dog attacks is the best way to protect your right to compensation. Your attorney can conduct an investigation to locate all potentially liable parties, document damages, find relevant expert witnesses, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and represent you if your case makes it to trial.
At the Law Office of Ben Crittenden, we’re committed to fighting for the rights of Alaska residents who’ve been injured by dangerous dogs. Call today at 907-885-6032 or take a moment to fill out our online contact form to request a free initial consultation.