Questions We Are Asked Each Week By Clients...

We are often asked questions like how much should the insurance company pay?  Who will pay my medical bills, etc.  So we have put together some of the questions we here the most and the answers to them.  We hope this helps you avoid making a mistake in your Iowa dog bite, work injury or other injury matter.

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  • Will I be affected by the dog’s breed when filing my claim?

    There are two theories of liability for pursuing damages for a dog bite in Iowa: first, the theory of strict liability, second, a negligence-based theory of responsibility. The following takes a look at both, specifically in regard to how a dog’s breed may affect a dog bite claim.

    Iowa’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws

    Iowa primarily imposes a strict liability dog bite law, found under Iowa Code 351.28, which reads that, “the owner of a dog shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog…” Under this law, the owner of a dog is always held responsible for injuries caused by a dog bite, regardless of dog breed or history of dangerous behavior (the exception to this is if the dog bite victim was doing something illegal at the time of dog attack).

    Iowa’s Negligence-based Liability

    Under the theory of strict liability, a dog owner is only liable for medical expenses specifically related to the injury. However, a dog bite victim does have the right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner if they can prove negligence. One example of neglect is failing to restrain a dog that has a known history of aggression or violence. On the same hand, a victim could also argue that it was negligent to harbor a dog declared dangerous or vicious.

    While there is no particular state law, multiple cities throughout Iowa have banned, restricted, or labeled as dangerous or vicious certain dog breed types. In Des Moines, for example, Pit Bulls are automatically considered to be vicious; in Sioux City, Pit Bulls are banned entirely. There are special rules and requirements for vicious dogs.

    In Cherokee, there is a restriction placed on the following dangerous dog breeds.

    • Pit Bulls
    • Akitas
    • Rottweilers
    • Doberman pinschers

    As such, if a person is harboring a dog that is illegal, restricted, or dangerous/vicious, and if this dog bites you, then you may be able to prove negligence in a civil suit. In a negligence-based liability case, damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering are all recoverable.

    Learn More about Liability from a Dog Bite Attorney

    To learn more about responsibility and how negligence and dog breed plays a role in your dog bite claim, call an attorney. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, our attorneys can help you learn more about different city ordinances regarding breed restrictions, and the process of recovering damages. Set up your free case consultation today by calling 888-435-9886 now. 

  • Do I need evidence for dog bite claim? If so, what kind?

    The state of Iowa imposes a strict liability statute regarding dog bites. Strict liability means that the owner of a dog is liable for “all damages caused” by his or her dog unless the victim is performing an illegal act at the time of the attack.

    Under statutory law, then, the dog bite victim does not need to prove negligence. Under case law, though, more evidence will be required. Here’s an overview of the types of evidence for dog bite claim you'll need.

    Evidence Necessary Under Statutory Law

    If you’re pursuing a dog bite claim under statutory law, the type of evidence you’ll need is relatively straightforward. Mostly, you’ll need to prove the following.

    • The dog in question was the dog that bit you
    • That you suffered injuries as a result of the bite/attack
    • That you were not doing anything illegal at the time of the bite/attack

    Other than these three items above, there is relatively little else that you’ll need to establish.

    Evidence Necessary Under Case Law

    To recover damages under the common law, or case law, however, you’ll need to establish the negligence of the dog owner. If you can prove negligence, you may be able to recover a greater damages amount, including damages for pain and suffering.

    Courts consider a situation as dog owner negligence when the dog owner knows that the dog is dangerous, but yet fails to restrain it. For example, if the dog had rabies and the owner knew or should have reasonably known about it, but failed to control the dog, then the owner acted negligently. Or, if the dog had bitten someone in the past, and the owner didn’t restrain the dog properly, then the owner acted negligently.

    To recover damages under case law, and then, you’ll need to prove the following.

    • That the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous dog’s nature
    • That the owner failed to take action to prevent the dog bite/attack
    • That the dangerous dog bit or attacked you
    • That you suffered injuries as a result of the bite/attack

    If you can prove the above, then you’ll be eligible to recover damages for the full extent of injuries suffered.

    What should I do next?

    If a dog in Iowa has bitten you, you might want to read our dog bites blogs about psychological injuries following a dog bite, and three reasons to hire a dog bite attorney. Then, call our offices to schedule your free case consultation. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, we want to represent you! Dial 888-435-9886 today.

  • What do I do if I think a dog is going to attack me?

    If you get the feeling that a dog is going to attack then give the dog space and then stand still and avoid eye contact. If a dog attacks, then you may suffer from permanent injuries, disfigurement, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. If you are ever in a situation where you believe that a dog is about to attack, here’s what to do if you think a dog is going to attack you.

    Preempt the Attack by Giving the Dog a Wide Berth

    There are a number of signs that a dog will give if it is feeling angry, scared, or territorial.

    • Tensing its body
    • Raising the hair on its neck and back (raising its hackles)
    • Opening its eyes wide so that you can see the whites (whale eye)
    • Backing away
    • Flattening its ears against its head

    If you notice any of the above, get away from the dog immediately in a calm manner. Sometimes giving a dog enough space is all it takes to stop a dog attack.

    Remain Motionless

    It may be too late to move away. If a dog is close enough to attack you and looks like it might do just that, you should try to remain as still as possible. Don’t move until the dog moves away. Remember, a dog is much faster than you. Your calmness may remove the threat of a dog attack.

    Avoid Eye Contact

    Dogs read eye contact as aggressive body language.  You don't have to necessarily make yourself blind to its movements, turning your head and looking out of the corner of your eye is standard submissive dog behavior. Dogs normally attack because they feel threatened, they think their young are threatened, or you are on their territory. The result that the dog probably wants is for you to be submissive and vacate the area.

    Resist Your Impulses

    Your natural reaction if a dog looks like it will attack you will probably be to scream, try to run away or hit the dog. Avoid all of these behaviors if at all possible. The best thing that you can do is remain quiet, remain still, and put something between yourself and the dog (like a coat or purse). Don’t fight back – doing so can enrage the animal even further. Even if you’re being attacked, try to remain still and make sure your face is covered.

    Know Your Rights as a Dog Bite Victim

    If a dog in the state of Iowa attacks you, it’s important that you know your rights to recovery. Iowa has a strict liability dog bite policy in its code (Section 351.28). If a dog bites you, its owner is liable for damages.

    Hopefully, a dog never attacks you. But if one does, you may need a lawyer to represent you while seeking damages. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, our lawyers have experience working with dog bite claims, just read our dog bite blog. Call us at 888-435-9886 today.

  • Which circumstances may make a dog more likely to attack/bite?

    Aggression is the most common and most serious behavior issue in dogs and can be the reason dogs bite. However, some dogs may be more prone to biting than others in certain circumstances. The following reviews situations that may make a dog more likely to bite or attack.

    If a Dog is Scared

    When a dog feels scared, it may demonstrate what the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) terms fear aggression. Most animals, when scared, will try to get away from the thing that is scaring them. If escape isn’t an option, aggression may be displayed as a defense mechanism. A fearful dog often will attack from behind, so always facing a dog that you sense may be scared of you is advised.

    When a Dog is Territorial

    Another common reason for a dog to bite or attack a person or another animal is in a display of territorial aggression. If you enter the property of a person whose dog identifies the property as theirs, the dog may bark, growl or attack. Both male and female dogs are often territorial. Dogs also can be territorial over possessions, like bones, toys or food. Sometimes dogs are even territorial over people.

    To Protect an Owner

    Dogs are naturally social animals that travel in packs and protect one another in the wild. In the event that a dog senses that its dog parent, or owner, is in danger, the dog may react aggressively in order to protect the owner. A dog may react aggressively to protect its puppies or another dog.

    If the Dog is Being Taunted, Teased or Attacked

    Finally, dogs may respond aggressively if they are taunted, teased, attacked or otherwise feel endangered. When this happens, the dog displays defensive aggression. Because dogs can be unpredictable, it is never recommended to taunt, tease or otherwise attack/upset a dog -- doing so can be very dangerous.

    Learn More About Dog Bite Law in Des Moines

    Exercising caution around a dog that you don’t know is always a good idea. In the event that a dog attacks you, you have legal options. To learn more about your rights, responsibilities and Iowa dog bite law, visit our dog bite blog today. Or if you want to schedule your free consultation to learn about whether you’ll be able to recover damages for a dog bite, visit Walker, Billingsley & Bair online or call 888-435-9886 today. 

  • Will the dog be put down if I file a dog bite claim?

    A dog bite claim – either with an insurance company (homeowner’s insurance) or in a civil case for damages – does not have any connection with an order for a dog to be euthanized.

    When a dog bites a person in Des Moines, the dog bite victim deserves to have their medical expenses – and often other, noneconomic expenses – paid. Iowa is a strict liability dog bite state, meaning that when a dog bites a person, the dog’s owner is almost always held liable, found in Iowa Code Section 351.28.

    While this is a positive thing for the dog bite victim, a victim may have hesitations about filing a claim, with fears that if they do, it would result in euthanasia. Alternately, a Des Moines dog bite victim might become upset if the dog put down doesn’t happen.

    A dog bite claim is not meant to penalize the dog or the dog’s owner in any way, other than to ensure that the dog bite owner pays for damages incurred by the victim. These damages may include actual costs, such as medical expenses, as well as noneconomic costs, like damages for pain and suffering.

    Laws Surrounding Euthanizing Animals in Iowa State

    Des Moines animal control officers can seize a dog that is considered to be vicious under Section 18.59 of Des Moines city ordinances. The statute reads that the chief humane officer can act “in his or her discretion” after receiving a complaint stating that a particular dog is vicious, by notifying the dog owner of the charge.

    The person who is the owner of the dog then has three business days to contest the validity of the complaint alleging that the dog is vicious. If the claim is not disputed, then the chief humane officer can seize the dog. The dog will be impounded for seven days. If, during that seven-day period, the dog’s owner does not take action, the dog will be euthanized at the conclusion of the seven days.

    Should I file a claim for damages if a dog has bitten me?

    If you suffered injuries as a result of a dog bite, then filing a claim is in your best interest. You can recover the financial damages needed to address the cost of treatment for dog bites in a claim.

    If you have more questions about how to file a claim, the types of damages you can recover, or how filing a claim will affect the dog or dog’s owner, don’t hesitate to talk to an attorney. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, our attorneys are ready to meet today. Call us now at 888-435-9886 or read our free eBook, Iowa Consumer’s Guide to Dog Bites.

  • Is the Des Moines pit bull ordinance effective at reducing dog bites?

    The fact that pit bulls in Des Moines must be registered as dangerous dogs and that owners must purchase special liability insurance when a dog is labeled as vicious, is inferred to reduce dog bites. There has not been any empirical evidence to prove anything at this time.

    Changing the Language of the Law: Vicious vs. High Risk

    Under Des Moines’ city ordinances Article II - Dogs, a pit bull is automatically considered to be a “vicious” dog, and must be licensed as such. The Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Iowa, along with other animal activists, have proposed changes to the city’s pit bull ordinance that would amend the automatic labeling of the dogs as “vicious.”

    While the ARL has voiced support for breed neutrality, others believe that the label should be downgraded to “high risk.” The City Council agrees with the latter, and a new ordinance will change the wording. It doesn’t matter for which designation a type of dog qualifies, if it causes long-term injury, dog bite law applies and the injured should call a dog bite attorney to file a claim.

    Pit bulls have a higher incident rate of bites than any other dogs except for Alaskan huskies. The high number of pit bull bites in the city could suggest one of two things: that the city’s ordinance requiring pit bulls to be registered as vicious isn’t effective in reducing the number of dog bites, or that the problem could be much worse if the ordinance didn’t exist.

    Preventing Dog Bites in Des Moines

    While changing the word vicious to high risk in Des Moines’ city ordinances may not have much effect, lawmakers in Des Moines are hoping that other changes to city code will. In addition to changing registration/labeling requirements, and the enforced special liability insurance fees will also be enacted upon dog owners whose pets habitually violate the law.

    Des Moines residents whose pets act aggressively more than once may potentially pay for the following.

    • Boarding fees
    • Micro-chipping
    • Impound fees

    Bitten by a dog in Des Moines? Call a Dog Bite Attorney Today

    Under Iowa dog bite law, dog owners are held under strict liability for harm caused by their dogs. This means that when a dog – pit bull or not – attacks another person, the dog’s owner is almost always responsible for paying for all damages.

    To help you recover damages following a dog attack, contact the attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair today for all you need to know about Iowa’s dog bite laws, and what compensation you’re entitled to. Reach us now at 888-435-9886.

  • What will happen after reporting a potentially dangerous dog in Des Moines?

    A potentially dangerous dog is one that bit someone, chases or approaches a person on "public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack," or a dog with a known propensity to attack without being provoked. It also can be a dog older than eight weeks that is born to a dog found to be dangerous.

    After reporting a potentially dangerous dog in Des Moines, the city will take certain steps to determine if the dog is potentially dangerous.

    What will happen once the city impounds the dog?

    The city may declare a dog potentially dangerous or dangerous based on probable cause. This can include your complaint and testimony, reports of dog bites, testimony by an animal control officer or police officer, a previous report the dog was found dangerous by another authority, or other evidence.

    The city may notify the owner of the dog that it declared the dog dangerous or potentially dangerous. The owner may appeal the decision, but the city may impound the dog during the appeal. The Des Moines Municipal Court or a higher court either will order the dog's redemption or destruction.

    If redeemed, the owner must get a special license for the dog and pay an initial fee, as well as subsequent renewal fees. The owner must confine the dog on the owner's property and post proper warnings that the property contains a potentially dangerous dog. The owner also must obtain a surety bond of no less than $100,000 that is payable to a person injured by the dog. The court may order the owner to spay or neuter the dog, if not already spayed or neutered.

    The owner will receive a certificate of registration upon showing compliance with the confinement and other requirements listed above.

    If Bitten in Des Moines, Call Walker, Billingsley & Bair

    Iowa law protects victims from having to pay for injuries out of pocket from dog bites. If a dog bit you, the owner of the dog will be liable for your injuries and damages related to the bite. An exception, though, is if you trespassed or provoked the dog in some way when it bit you.

    If you have questions about your legal rights or need help pursuing compensation for damages, contact the attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair. Call 888-435-9886 or set up your consultation via our online contact form.

  • What should you do if approached by an unfamiliar dog in Des Moines?

    Most people are comfortable around the dogs they know, but many dog bites involve dogs with which the victims are familiar. Still, being approached by an unfamiliar dog can be scary; if it happens to you, you need to be prepared. Below are some dog safety tips and an overview of how to act around unfamiliar dogs.

    Hold Still

    If approached by an unfamiliar dog, the worst thing that you can do is make sudden movements, like running. Instead, holding still and staying calm is key to your safety. If you are calm enough, slowly and steadily back away from the dog. Make sure you don’t turn around, through; stay facing the dog at all times.

    Use the Right Body Language

    Many people who are approached by an unfamiliar dog will try to soothe the dog by smiling or trying to pet it. Both moves can be dangerous if the dog is aggressive, though. Never make eye contact, never try to reach out and touch the dog, and never smile – the dog may believe you are showing your teeth, which is a sign of aggression. Additionally, never use an aggressive or threatening tone when talking to the dog – if attempting to calm the dog down, use a soothing tone.

    Know How to Respond if Bitten

    Ideally, a dog would never bite you. But if an aggressive dog attacks, it’s important to know what to do. According to an article in CBS News published in June 2010, if bitten by a dog, never try to pull away from the dog or fight back by hitting or kicking – both actions will encourage the dog to attack harder. Instead, try to remain calm and put something in between you and the dog, like a purse or sweatshirt. If you are on the ground when attacked, roll your body into the fetal position and cover your head with your arms.

    Get Medical Attention and Talk to a Lawyer if Bitten

    If a dog bites you, seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, alert the dog’s owner and animal control as soon as possible. If your bite injuries are severe, seek legal counsel to discuss what legal action you may take to recover damages related to the bite.

    In Iowa, the law protects dog bite victims by holding the owner of the dog liable in the majority of cases. If you’ve been bitten and you were not committing an illegal act at the time of bite, then the owner will be liable for your damages. Damages may include the cost of medical care (short- and long-term, if needed), lost wages while recovering, pain and suffering, and more. If you need help recovering damages, call the attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines.

    Our attorneys understand the trauma – both physical and emotional – that victims might experience after dog attacks. We can help recover compensation for injuries, pain and suffering, and more, so call our offices today at 888-435-9886 or use our online contact form to set up your appointment.

  • Can I still file a dog bite claim if I killed the dog during the attack?

    In some instances of dog attacks, the victim attacked may kill the dog in self-defense. Killing a dog during a dog attack may leave the victim feeling badly for the dog in some cases, and also lead to legal questions about whether one could face criminal charges and how it affects their ability to recover compensation in a dog bite claim. If you’ve killed a dog in self-defense in Des Moines, here’s what you need to know about your legal rights.

    Iowa Strict Liability Statute

    When it comes to dog bite law in Iowa, the state has a strict liability statute. A strict liability statute means that in the case that a dog attacks another person, the owner of the dog is almost always liable. This law can be found in Iowa Code 351.28, which reads, “The owner of a dog shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog, when…the dog is acting or attempting to bite a person…” The exception to this law is in the case that the victim was doing an unlawful act, such as trespassing.

    Iowa Self-Defense Laws for Dog Attacks

    In most cases, killing a dog during a dog attack is justified if the action is in self-defense. According to Iowa Code Ann. Section 717B.2, a person is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor if he or she "intentionally injures, maims, disfigures, or destroys and animal owned by another person…" But this shall not apply if the "person is reasonably acting to protect a person from injury or death caused by an unconfined animal," which might be the case in a dog attack.

    Do I have a personal injury case?

    If you have killed a dog in self-defense, but sustained injuries before the death of the dog occurred, then you may still have a case for damages. The exception to this rule would be if, as noted above, you were committing an illegal action at the time of attack or if the dog had rabies and the dog owner was not aware of the dog's condition.

    Assuming that you were not committing an illegal action, and the dog was not rabid, then the dog owner may be liable for injuries regardless of whether or not the dog was killed in self-defense.

    Contact a Dog Bite Attorney if Injured in Des Moines

    If you killed a dog in self-defense and are concerned about whether you can still recover damages that you suffered, get help from an attorney. The dog bite attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair can walk you through your legal rights and help you exercise those rights to recover compensation. Call us today at 888-435-9886 to get started. 

  • Can a dog bite cause nerve damage?

    Can a dog bite cause nerve damage? A dog bite can cause nerve damage. A dog's powerful jaws can injure not only nerves, but also tendons, muscles and bones.

    Ways a Dog Bite Can Cause Nerve Damage

    Neuropraxia is the least serious type of nerve damage because it stretches nerves but doesn't severe them. It can occur from crushing injuries caused by the bite or when an attack results in a dislocation or fracture. Recovery can take anywhere from a few hours to several months.

    Axonotmesis is a serious injury that a dog bite can cause, damaging nerves and muscle and motor function. Recovery is much longer, from a few months to years.

    Neurotmesis is the most severe type of injury a dog bite – it occurs when the nerve is severed. If it's a clean cut, it's sometimes possible to repair the nerve. One type of procedure involves regenerating the nerves. Recovery will still take time because it's a slow process. But in many circumstances the damage is irreparable. When function doesn't return, it can cause abnormal sensations or movements.

    Signs of Nerve Damage after a Dog Bite

    Motor nerves control actions and movements. They do this by passing information from the spinal cord and brain to the muscles.

    Signs of motor nerve damage may include:

    • weakness;
    • paralysis;
    • fasciculation (twitching); and
    • muscle atrophy (muscle wasting).

    Sensory nerves affect sensation (such as pain). These nerves pass information from the muscles and skin to the brain and spinal cord.

    Signs of sensory nerve damage may include:

    • burning;
    • numbness;
    • pain;
    • prickling/tingling; and
    • difficulties with positional awareness.

    How Nerve Damage May Impact a Dog Bite Claim

    Nerve damage can occur to the face, hands or other body parts. It's possible that additional injuries occurred, such as fractures. Open wounds are at risk of infection, and a bite may cause disfigurement. These are all important considerations when determining the value of a dog bite claim.

    Dog owner liability depends on state laws, so it's important to understand how that may affect a claim. In Iowa, it's fairly easy to hold an owner liable for damages. The only exception that may apply is if the victim acted unlawfully, and it contributed to the injury. Breaking into someone's home and getting attacked by the family's dog would qualify as acting unlawfully. It is likely that the owner will not want to part with his or her dog after the attack, so familiarize yourself with the common challenges of a dog bite claim in Des Moines and how to address them.

    Recoverable damages include the medical costs to treat the injury. Nerve damage injuries may require surgery. If injuries are severe, cosmetic surgery may be needed to improve appearance.

    Lost earnings are another form of compensation that may be available in a dog bite claim. This applies to any missed time from work while healing and recovering. It may even include anticipated earnings if the attack leaves the person disabled.

    Nerve damage may allow for the recovery of damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and reduced quality of life. Permanent scarring may allow for compensation for disfigurement. To better understand one's right to file a claim and the types of compensation to seek, contact a dog bite attorney at Walker, Billingsley and Bair. We handle dog bite cases -- just fill out our contact form for quick response.