In one year alone, the Delaware Division of Human Health received reports of more than 1,500 dog bites to humans. There are many reasons why a dog may bite someone, even someone they are familiar with. Dogs of all types and sizes may bite, and no single breed is responsible for the numerous dog bites reported in Delaware.
Injuries from dog bites may include:
- Cuts, scratches, and puncture wounds
- Eye injuries
- Ear injuries
- Infections and diseases
- Disfigurement or scarring that requires plastic surgery
- Head, face, and neck injuries
- Injuries to hands and arms, or feet and legs
- Pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – including anxiety and panic attacks
Liability for a Dog Bite
The state of Delaware has clear laws about liability in the case of dog bites. The owner of a dog falls under the state’s “strict liability” statute for dog bite injuries, death, or property damage caused by their dog, with only three exceptions:
- When the victim provoked the dog – examples include teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog.
- When the victim was trespassing or committing a crime on the dog owner’s property, or attempting to trespass or commit a crime.
- When the victim was committing or attempting to commit a crime against a person.
Injuries that occur from other dog behavior such as jumping on and knocking a person to the ground are also covered by the Delaware dog bite law. Additionally, Delaware has a leash law, which means it is illegal to let a dog roam freely. The dog should always be under the owner’s control.
Preventing Dog Bites
Besides always keeping a dog leashed, there are many steps dog owners can take to minimize the risk of their dog biting someone. Many people know never to disturb a dog when it is eating or sleeping. Other tips include:
- Socialize the dog so that it is used to interacting with other dogs and people. Isolated dogs are more likely to become aggressive and overly protective of their territory.
- Spay or neuter the dog, as spayed and neutered dogs are less likely to bite.
- Keep the dog healthy with regular check-ups at the veterinarian. Dogs that are not well, or in pain, are more likely to be aggressive.
- Remove excitable dogs from stressful situations. Avoid situations that introduce too many new people, smells, or sounds.
- Never leave a child alone with a dog, even one that they are familiar with. Further, teach children how to safely approach and handle dogs.
The American Veterinary Medical Association journal published a ten-year study of dog bites that found 84 percent of dogs involved in attacks were unneutered, and nearly half the victims of fatal attacks were children. According to Delaware law, a dog owner is responsible for any injuries caused by their dog, unless the victim’s own behavior meets one of the three conditions listed above. This means the victim does not need to prove the owner knew the dog was vicious, and the victim could even share some fault, as long as their behavior did not rise to the level of one of the three exceptions.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim in a Dog Bite Case
Dog bite injuries can leave a victim shaken and fearful of future encounters with dogs. Costs can add up from missing work days, or when physical or occupational therapy is needed after initial medical treatment. Mental therapy may also be necessary for those traumatized by dog bite accidents.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help victims recover compensation for damages suffered from dog bite injuries, but the Delaware statute of limitations requires that an initial complaint be filed within two years of the date the injury occurred.
If you have injuries from a dog bite accident, do not delay in seeking knowledgeable legal counsel.
Delaware Personal Injury Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Advocate for Injured Victims of Dog Bites
For answers to your legal questions about dog bites, contact a Delaware personal injury lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Call us today at 302-656-5445 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We have offices conveniently located in Wilmington and Georgetown, serving clients throughout Delaware, including those in Dover, and those in New Castle County, Kent County, and Sussex County.