Have you been a victim of a dog attack in Mississippi? If so, you may wonder how to proceed and who is held accountable for your accident, your medical bills, and any suffering you may endure.
The CDC reports that over 4.5 million Americans are victims of dog bites and other domestic animal attacks. While it is natural to want the dog to be put down after a vicious attack, like all state laws, Mississippi laws accommodate animal rights. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you prove liability in your dog bite case and claim fair compensation for your suffering.
Mississippi’s Dog Bite Liability Laws
Liability in dog bite cases in the state of Mississippi is not as clear-cut as in other states that observe the rule of strict liability. There are no specific set rules in the Mississippi state laws or legal statutes that govern dog bites.
In other states (most but not all), the dog owner is held 100% liable for any attacks, whether on personal or public property except in cases of provocation—if the victim provoked the animal. However, Mississippi observes a doctrine known as the “one bite rule” to help determine liability in dog bite cases.
As the victim, you may have to pay your own medical bills and receive no compensation if the incident is deemed to be the dog’s first attack.
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What Is the “One Free Bite Rule” in Mississippi?
The one bite rule simply implies that a dog owner cannot be held accountable for an attack if the dog didn’t show any signs of being dangerous. In essence, every dog is perceived to be harmless unless proven otherwise and so the first bite is “free” of liability for the pet owner.
After the first incident, the pet owner is solely liable for subsequent attacks, given that the dog has already shown signs of aggression and proven to be a danger to others. The pet owner can be sued and be mandated to compensate the victim for all injuries and damage. Instances where the one free bite rule does not apply include when:
- The attack was sanctioned by the dog owner
- The dog previously showed other signs of aggression such as growling
- The owner could foresee the attack beforehand
What does Compensation for a Dog Bite Cover?
If it has been determined the dog owner is liable for the animal attack, either the or their home owner’s insurance policy would have to pay for the damages. Damages that are covered in a dog bite suit compensation include:
- Medical bills: This is the amount you incurred for treatment for your injuries, including hospital bills and medication.
- Pain and suffering: While pain and suffering cannot be quantified, the experience of being attacked by an animal can indeed be traumatizing and cause emotional and psychological harm. Your lawyer can agree upon a specific figure to cover your suffering.
- Lost wages: If you were hospitalized or had to stay at home for the duration of your recovery and lost wages as a result of the recuperation period, the lost wages must also be covered as part of your compensation.
- Disability benefits: Dog bites are dangerous and, depending on the extent of your injuries, you may be left disabled after the incident. Such cases are rare, although when they do occur, you have to be compensated and receive disability benefits.
In cases where the pet owner’s insurance company has to pay for the damages, they will always try to downplay the victim’s injuries to get out of paying what’s rightfully owed. You need a lawyer who will fight for you.
What to Do After a Dog Bite Incident
Although rarely fatal, dog bites can cause infections that may develop into serious health complications, including heart attacks.
1. Call 911
The first step after a dog bite incident is to call the emergency responders who will administer primary care and treatment for your wounds.
If you’re unable to call 911, administer first aid by cleaning the wound with water and an antiseptic and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
2. Find Out About the Dog and the Owner
Once you’re out of the clear, find out if the dog was vaccinated. Animal control laws require that all pets be vaccinated against rabies and have a certificate for that, usually in the tags.
Dog tags help distinguish pets from stray animals. Getting information regarding the dog and the owner will help you know who to sue, should you decide to file a suit against them.
3. Report the Incident to Animal Control
Visit your nearest animal control office and file a formal complaint by filling in some paperwork. Alternatively, you can request animal control report forms from the hospital.
4. Document Your Injuries
Request a copy of your medical records documenting your injuries and treatment. You should also take photos of your wound which will count as evidence when you pursue legal action against the dog owner.
5. Consult a Legal Professional
To file a valid dog bite suit, you need legal guidance to help determine if you have a valid claim and how to go about it. While you may choose to pursue the claim on your own, you stand a better chance of getting compensation with the right legal representation.
Mississippi’s Statute of Limitations in Dog Bite Cases
Dog bite lawsuits are considered personal injury suits and have a statute of limitations of three years in the state of Mississippi. Filing a dog bite lawsuit three years after the incident occurred will prevent you from getting any form of compensation.
A Professional Personal Injury Lawyer Can Make All the Difference
Claiming compensation for a dog bite injury can be a challenging case, especially in the state of Mississippi. With the one bite rule, dog owners have a lot of leeway and multiple defenses to help them win the case.
However, our team of experts at Morris Bart has vast experience dealing with such complicated cases and will examine all the evidence to help you get your rightful compensation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and examination.
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