Challenges to a Dog Bite Claim and How to Address Them

Usually an injury from a dog attack is nothing more serious than some broken skin that is easily taken care of with a bit of antiseptic and a bandage; however, in extreme cases, a dog bite or attack in Des Moines can cause severe injuries. Deep lacerations, tendon damage, nerve damage, rabies and even death can all result from a vicious dog attack. These injuries can result in enormous medical bills, time off from work, and intense pain and suffering. If you're pursuing a dog bite claim after an attack, prepare yourself for challenges from the dog owner. Ask yourself the following questions.

What does the law say about liability?

The law in Iowa is very clear when it comes to the liability of dog owners. According to Iowa Code 351.28, “The owner of a dog shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog, when the dog is caught in the action of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal, or the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person, except when the party damaged is doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury.” Thus, unless the dog bite victim is doing something unlawful, the dog owner is liable for the injuries. This leads some defendants to argue that the plaintiff was, in fact, doing something unlawful at the time, and it contributed to the attack.

Were you trespassing on the dog owner's property?

Many dog owners believe if you were “trespassing,” they are not responsible for the dog’s actions, but this may not be the case. The law states that an owner may not be liable if the victim was doing something unlawful and that it contributed to the bite. So if someone trespassed by hopping a fence and scared the dog, this might be grounds for the dog owner to challenge his or her liability.

But if your trespassing did not contribute to the injury, then the dog owner still may be liable for damages.

Was the dog provoked?

This is the defense of many dog owners, and in some cases, the dog may have been provoked. For example, a teenager may pull a dog's tail or start chasing the dog into a corner. In this case, the dog owner may challenge his or her liability successfully in the dog bite claim.

But the parties may have different ideas of what constitutes provoking the dog. A child inadvertently may provoke a dog, or an adult may have been playing too rough, for example. Talk to an attorney about the particulars of your case.

Does the dog have rabies?

Owners are generally not liable for bites if the dog had rabies and the owner did not know or reasonably could not be expected to know, the dog had rabies. In these cases, though, if you can prove the dog owner was negligent – for example, leaving a gate open, allowing a child access to the backyard while the dog is outside – then the dog owner may be liable.

When should I hire an attorney?

If you have been injured badly enough to require medical attention or have missed work because of a dog attack, seek legal advice. If you or someone you love has been injured by a dog attack in Des Moines, call Walker, Billingsley & Bair at 888-435-9886 today and talk to a lawyer about your options.

Corey Walker
With 19 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.