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Experienced Birmingham Dog Bite Attorneys
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Birmingham, Alabama is a city celebrated for its rich history, diverse culture, southern charm, and notably, a thriving community of dog lovers. Our relationship with “man’s best friend” traces back to an era long before our city's founding, to the time when our ancestors first tamed wolves. Over centuries, these wild canines have transformed into our faithful protectors and beloved family members. Alabama stands among the top ranks for dog ownership, with 44.1 percent of households home to at least one furry companion. In Birmingham, dogs fill our parks, brighten our neighborhoods, and sit with us at outdoor cafes.
However, as we acknowledge dogs’ contributions to our lives, we must also recognize that their nature remains unpredictable. Dog attacks are an unfortunate reality in every community, including Birmingham. A history of abuse, an unwelcome surge of adrenaline, a misinterpreted gesture, or the high-pitched laughter or cries of a child can all trigger a dog’s primal instincts, with tragic repercussions. In Walker County, a 36-year-old woman was mauled to death on the street by a pack of stray dogs. A child, too close to a family dog’s food bowl, ended up with lifelong, disfiguring facial scars. Parents, leaving their new baby alone with a pet they’ve loved and trusted for years, returned to a nightmarish scene. These were all real cases. Depending on physical size, strength, and tenacity, some dogs are more equipped to kill an adult than others, but it takes little power to overwhelm babies and small children, who make up 50% of dog bite fatalities.
In the face of these grim realities, it's crucial to remember that dog owners bear significant responsibility. Dog bite injury law is designed to protect the rights of victims, and our dog bite attorneys are prepared to navigate any case, no matter how serious. Our Birmingham dog bite lawyers will utilize their expertise to ensure you receive the justice you deserve and the compensation you need to recover.
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Common Causes of Birmingham Dog Bites
A variety of factors can influence dog attacks. Dogs bite when they feel threatened, are in pain, or when they are protecting something valuable to them, such as food, a toy, their home, or a member of their “pack.” Unfamiliar surroundings or loud noises can make even a well-behaved dog jumpy and ill at ease, triggering a bite. Furthermore, abuse, poor ownership and lack of discipline can create a disobedient, mistrusting, and highly dangerous dog.
How Can I Avoid a Dog Bite?
The best cure for a dog bite is prevention. While some attacks can occur unprovoked, many can be avoided with proper dog etiquette:
Understand the Warning Signs of an Anxious or Aggressive Dog
These can include a mix of the following:
- Ears flattened, or pointed up and forward
- Fur on their back and tail standing on end
- A stiff stance with aggressive eye contact
- Barking and growling
- Bared teeth
- Showing the “whites” of their eyes
- Crouching with a lowered head
- Licking lips
- Tail between legs
Don’t Leave Your Child Unattended With A Dog
No matter how safe you assume a dog is, animals are always unpredictable, especially around smaller, louder creatures. Any dog can bite, and your child’s life is not worth the risk.
Don’t Approach a Strange Dog
If this unknown dog approaches you, try to stay quiet and still until you can determine its mood and intentions.
Don’t Run Towards or Away From a Dog
While some dogs can interpret this behavior as playing, others will feel threatened, and running away can trigger their prey drive and cause them to give chase.
Don’t Tease Dogs
This behavior is cruel and unnecessary, and can have serious consequences. Barking or growling at a chained or crated dog, offering a treat and pulling it away, or otherwise agitating a dog can lead to aggressive behavior or a bite.
Even if you follow all of the above precautions to the letter, you may be bitten regardless. Animals are unpredictable, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time can result in pain or tragedy. If you or a member of your family has been attacked in Alabama, contact a Birmingham dog bite lawyer immediately for assistance.
Are Some Dogs More Likely to Attack?
Any dog can bite. However, strength, temperament, and unpredictability makes certain breeds more inherently dangerous to humans, especially those historically bred for dog fighting. Due to a combination of poor breeding, negligent ownership, and strong bite force, Pit bulls and pit mixes are responsible for nearly 70% of U.S. dog attacks, with higher injury rates, hospital charges, and fatalities than any other breed, despite making up less than 6% of the U.S. dog population.
High attack rates have led to the banning of Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and Presa Canarios in many U.S. cities. In Alabama, the cities of Irondale, Center Point, Lanette, Midfield, and Fayette have enacted legislation banning the above breeds, while other Alabama cities legally designate these breeds as “dangerous.”
Dog Bite Injuries
Dogs have the ability to cause extensive damage to the body with their sharp teeth and claws. While some dog bites only require light care, a moderate or severe attack can result in long term damage, disfigurement, and death, particularly in children. Some of the most common dog bite injuries include:
- Lacerations and puncture wounds
- Tearing of the skin
- Damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Nerve damage
Furthermore, the psychological effects of a sudden, violent dog attack can follow a victim for decades and result in a strong phobia (fear) of dogs. These animals are so common that a dog phobia can be extremely limiting and distressing. Survivors often experience symptoms of PTSD long after the incident, including intrusive thoughts, involuntary, recurring memories, vivid flashbacks, and distressing dreams. These symptoms significantly degrade a victim’s quality of life and often require expensive psychological treatment.
Alabama Dog Bite Laws
In Alabama, dog owners are strictly liable for any injury that occurs to another person as a result of their animal's behavior. Dog bite victims in Birmingham have the right to compensation for their injuries under Alabama Code 1975 Title 3. Principles of negligence govern liability in Alabama biting incidents. If the claimant can prove the owner had previous knowledge of their animal's vicious propensities, they can hold them liable for any and all damages that may have resulted from the bite. This principle is called the “one bite rule.”
The below examples can prove an owner’s previous knowledge of a dog’s dangerous tendencies:
- The owner has given testimony that they fear their dog may attack;
- The dog has bitten a person before;
- The dog has been known to bark at and chase passersby;
- The owner knew their dog belonged to a breed considered dangerous.
Common law negligence statutes designate that if a dog has indicated any previous dangerous behavior, or belongs to an inherently dangerous breed - such as a Pit bull - and bites someone, causing injuries, the owner is liable. Because of their dog's breed, the owner is considered by Alabama law to have been “on notice” for their pet's high risk of attack. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a breed designated “dangerous” in your area, you have an especially strong case for owner liability. Our Birmingham dog bite attorneys can help you pursue this case to its conclusion - contact us today for a free consultation.
Alabama is a “strict liability” state. This means Birmingham dog owners are always strictly liable for any and all damages to a person bitten by their dog while on the owner’s property. Owners are also liable for any injuries that occur in the immediate vicinity of their property, if their animal gets loose or chases a victim off the property. If a bitten claimant cannot prove the owner was negligent or had knowledge of their dog's dangerous tendencies, the owner is only held liable for the actual economic expenses incurred by the dog bite.
If, however, the victim can prove that the owner had known - or should have known - their dog was dangerous, they have strong grounds to file a negligence claim. If a victim wins a negligence claim, they have the right to recover financial compensation for the full extent of their losses. In Alabama, dog bite settlements are worth an average of $30,000 to $50,000, to cover ongoing medical treatment, pain and suffering, and psychological damage.
In 2017, 24-year-old Alabama resident Emily Mae Colvin was mauled to death in her yard by five of her neighbor’s loose Pit bulls. They had previously gotten loose and attacked other animals with their owners’ full knowledge. As a result, Alabama governor Kay Ivey passed a new law in memory of Emily, designed to prevent future injuries and deaths by imposing strict penalties for negligent owners.
Under “Emily’s Law,” dogs suspected to be dangerous are subject to impounding and a hearing as part of an investigation process requested under a sworn affidavit. Dogs legally declared dangerous may be allowed to return to their owners under strict conditions. If these conditions are violated and the dog attacks a person unprovoked, causing death or serious physical injuries, the owner is guilty of a Class B felony. If the dog was not legally dangerous, but the owner had prior knowledge of its dangerous tendencies, the owner will be charged with a Class C felony for willful negligence.
Seeking Legal Advice From Birmingham Personal Injury Attorneys? Contact Wettermark Keith Today for a Free Consultation.
Not only can a dog bite leave victims with painful injuries and scarring, but the cost of the medical care required to treat these injuries can be impossibly high. If a case against the negligent owner is not pursued, medical bills can leave Birmingham attack survivors and their families in dire financial straits. If the dog that bit you belongs to a friend or associate, our lawyers understand your hesitation to pursue a personal injury negligence claim against them. However, please take into account that their insurance will likely cover the injuries caused by the animal; none of their personal finances will be affected.
You and your family don’t have to handle this situation alone. Our expert Birmingham personal injury attorneys have seen it all, and have the skill, resources, and knowledge of complex dog bite laws to build you a compelling case. Call Wettermark Keith now for a free consultation with experienced personal injury lawyers.
No Recovery, No Fee Guarantee
Our firm operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay nothing out of pocket. Any legal fees and associated costs will be collected from your winnings at the conclusion of the case. If your attorney is not able to obtain a verdict or settlement for your injury, you will not be charged any legal fees for their efforts.
Our Birmingham Dog Bite Attorneys Understand Animal Law - and Will Fight for Your Recovery
Birmingham dog bite cases can be complicated, with a variety of mitigating circumstances and different avenues of liability. Without extensive legal knowledge, it can be difficult to know how to proceed after a dog attack. For peace of mind and excellent representation, contact us. No case is too big for our Birmingham dog bite lawyers to pursue. We represent each and every client with compassion, and employ the thorough legal expertise needed to make their case a success.
At Wettermark Keith, we believe in taking cases personally. Our purpose is to practice with care and compassion - to tell our clients’ stories and make their voices heard. We do this by building strong relationships based on constant communication and an unwavering dedication to truth and trust. Winning cases isn’t our goal - caring for you is. Winning is just how we show it. As we say, It’s more to us, it’s personal.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
On average, a straightforward Alabama dog bite case resolves in one to three months. However, there is no way to predict case length without knowing the specific circumstances of the incident. Some cases can take two or more years to settle.