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Dog Bite Liability Laws In Alabama

By: Fred Moore | Jun 28, 2022

Dogs are often considered beloved members of the family, and it can be easy to forget that they have the potential to cause serious harm. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack, it’s important to know how Alabama liability laws may impact your case. The personal injury attorneys at Moore Law Firm are well-versed in Alabama dog bite laws, and help clients understand the different legal approaches that may be taken in dog bite cases

Dog Bite Statistics

Dog attacks can cause very serious injuries or death, particularly if the victim is a child. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. In a study published by Hunter College, in 2018, dog bites ranked as the 13th leading cause of nonfatal emergency department visits in the United States. Nearly 27,000 people required reconstructive surgery due to dog bite injuries in 2018 as well.

Alabama Dog Bite Laws

Alabama’s dog bite liability laws can be confusing. In some cases, the legal concept of strict liability comes into play, which means that a dog owner is liable for any injury their dog causes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that dog bite injury cases are not always cut and dry. Alabama dog bite laws vary, depending on whether an owner is aware that their dog is aggressive or dangerous.

If a dangerous dog bites someone without provocation, the owner is most likely liable, regardless of where the attack happens, but if a previously friendly dog bites or attacks, there are conditions and limits placed on claims.

Typically, the owner of a previously friendly dog is strictly liable if the bite occurs on property that they own or control, but if a bite happens in a public place, they may not be liable. However, local laws leash laws may also affect the dog owner’s liability under the concept of negligence per se, which is sometimes used in cases involving actions that violate the law.  In addition, victims who are bitten by previously friendly dogs may only recover actual damages like medical bills and lost wages. They cannot demand non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

If you can prove that an owner was aware of a dog’s aggressive tendencies and/or that their negligence caused injuries and damages, you may be entitled to non-economic damages. In rare cases where an owner’s actions were particularly egregious, a victim may be able to recover punitive damages as well.  A personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case and determine which types of damages may be available to you, depending on the specifics of your claim.

What Is Emily’s Law?

In 2018, the Alabama legislature enacted Emily’s Law, which was named after Emily Colvin, a 24-year-old woman who was attacked and killed by dogs outside her home. This law established a uniform, statewide procedure for a dog to be officially declared dangerous.

If an investigation by animal control or law enforcement determines that the dog presents a threat, a trial is held before a municipal court or a district court to determine whether the dog should officially be designated as dangerous. If the dog has seriously injured someone or the attack resulted in wrongful death, the dog will likely be euthanized humanely.

If the dog did not cause serious injury, but the court deems it dangerous, the owner must:

  • Register the dog with the county and pay any licensing and court fees
  • Sign a sworn statement that the dog will be properly secured or supervised at all times
  • Show that there is a secure, locked enclosure if the dog is left outside
  • Obtain a $100,000 surety bond that covers bite-related costs such as medical bills
  • Spay or neuter and microchip the dog

If a dangerous dog attacks someone, in addition to being civilly liable, the owner may face criminal charges. This can include felony charges and a fine of up to $30,000 if their dog severely injures or kills someone.

How An Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer Can help

The statute of limitations for a dog bite claim in Alabama is two years, but the sooner you contact a lawyer, the better. It’s critical to collect evidence in a timely manner and bring a claim while the details of the incident are still fresh in your mind. It’s also important to determine the most effective legal strategy based on the specifics of your dog bite case. Although it’s possible to bring a claim against a dog owner or their insurance company on your own, attempting to do so can be a losing battle. Hiring a dog bite lawyer can increase your chances of recovering the maximum compensation, help to ensure you get the medical treatment you need, and hold dog owners accountable for their actions.

Contact A Dog Bite Attorney In Mobile, AL

If you, your child, or another loved one has been injured in a dog attack, our personal injury attorneys at Moore Law Firm Mobile can help. Call us today at 251-445-7602 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with a Mobile dog bite lawyer.