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Dog Bites and Liability: An Exploration of Louisiana Laws

Posted in Dog Bites on September 15, 2023

In March this year, a devastating incident occurred in Louisiana, where a young girl, Emily Roark, suffered severe facial injuries from a dog her family had recently taken in for fostering. 

Emily endured significant muscle trauma and received sutures near her eye and mouth. Medical professionals indicated a loss of function on one side of her face, including an inability to smile or eat, and potential harm to her tear duct.

Soon, Emily faces a series of surgical procedures to mend the muscle trauma. According to reports, Emily was gently interacting with the foster dog, named Tater Tot, when it unexpectedly lunged at her. The canine gripped her face and shook her violently, eventually releasing her but not before consuming a portion of her flesh.

Emily’s mother expressed her horror during the event, unable to detach the dog from her daughter and fearing the worst. Animal control officers later removed Tater Tot from the residence and euthanized it. Emily, who had previously expressed a desire for a pet dog, now exhibits a fear of animals. Her mother shared that Emily occasionally mentions her pain and fear in a way that is deeply distressing.

How Louisiana Civil Code Article 2321 Affects Dog Owners and Victims

Louisiana Civil Code Article 2321 serves as a pivotal law when it comes to dog bites in the state. For victims, this article offers a legal pathway to seek compensation for injuries. It states a dog owner is liable for damages if the owner could have prevented the dog from causing harm and did not do so. For dog owners, the article places a significant responsibility to ensure their pets are well-behaved and controlled. Failure to meet these responsibilities can result in financial repercussions, including having to pay for medical bills, emotional distress, and other damages incurred by the victim. In essence, Article 2321 aims to balance the scales by protecting victims while holding dog owners accountable for their pets’ actions. 

Steps to Take Immediately Following a Dog Bite Incident

When a dog bite occurs, immediate action can make a significant difference in both medical outcomes and legal proceedings. First, medical care should be sought as soon as possible. Even minor bites can lead to infections or other complications. Second, documenting the incident becomes vital. Taking photos of the injuries and the location where the bite happened can serve as important evidence later on. If there are witnesses, collecting their contact information can also be helpful. Third, a formal report should be filed with local animal control or another relevant authority. Such a report not only serves as an official record but also helps in tracking potentially dangerous animals in the community. Lastly, information about the dog and its owner should be gathered, including the dog’s breed and any vaccination history if available. These steps aim to protect the well-being of the victim while also laying the groundwork for any future legal actions.

Medical Attention: Why Immediate Care Matters in Legal Context

Seeking immediate medical attention after a dog bite is not just important for health reasons; it also has legal implications. When a medical professional examines and treats a dog bite, a medical record is generated. These records can serve as concrete evidence to substantiate claims of injury, which can be invaluable in a legal case. Immediate medical care can also help in identifying the severity of the bite, the risk of infection, and the need for treatments like tetanus shots or rabies vaccinations. In some instances, failure to seek prompt medical attention can be used against a victim, with claims injuries were not serious or the victim’s own negligence worsened the condition. Therefore, immediate medical care serves a dual purpose: it protects a person’s health and strengthens their legal position.

Gathering Evidence: Photos, Witnesses, and Reports

After a dog bite incident, gathering evidence becomes a key step in building a strong legal case. Taking clear photos of the injuries, as well as the scene where the incident occurred, can provide visual proof of the event’s severity. These images can be particularly persuasive when presented in a legal context. Witnesses can also play a significant role. If anyone saw the incident, collecting their contact information for future testimony can be invaluable. Witnesses can corroborate a victim’s account of the event, adding credibility to their claims. Finally, filing an official report with local authorities or animal control creates a formal record of the incident. Such reports can be used later to demonstrate the event was significant enough to warrant official attention. Together, photos, witness accounts, and official reports form a comprehensive evidence package can be highly influential in any legal proceedings related to the dog bite.

Filing a Claim: Legal Procedures in Louisiana

In Louisiana, filing a claim for a dog bite involves several steps designed to formalize the process and ensure fair treatment for all parties involved. Initially, the victim needs to notify the dog owner about the incident and the intention to file a claim. This is often done in writing and serves as a formal initiation of the process. Subsequently, an investigation typically takes place, where evidence such as medical records, photos, and witness statements are reviewed. Insurance companies often become involved at this stage, evaluating the claim’s validity and determining potential compensation amounts. It’s worth noting Louisiana operates under a strict liability framework, which can influence how claims are assessed and what damages may be awarded. 

Role of Insurance Companies in Dog Bite Settlements

Insurance companies often play a significant role in resolving dog bite cases in Louisiana. Once a claim is filed, an insurance adjuster usually investigates to assess the validity of the claim and the extent of the damages. This process may include reviewing medical records, examining photos of the injuries, and interviewing witnesses. Based on these findings, the insurance company will typically make an initial settlement offer. It’s important to note insurance companies aim to minimize payouts, so initial offers may not fully cover all the damages a victim has incurred. 

Common Defenses Employed by Dog Owners

Dog Bites Injuries

When faced with a dog bite claim, dog owners often employ certain defenses to mitigate their liability. One common argument is provocation, where the owner claims the victim provoked the dog into attacking. Another frequently used defense is trespassing; if the victim was unlawfully on the owner’s property when bitten, the owner might argue not liable for damages. Some owners also claim having taken reasonable steps to restrain their dog or warn others of the dog’s potential for aggression, thus shifting some responsibility onto the victim. 

If you have suffered a dog bite injury, contact us or call (504) 500-5000 today for a free consultation.