Most dogs make friendly family pets and wonderful companions. But every so often, a dog may unexpectedly lash out and attack a person if it feels threatened or has not been trained properly. When a dog bite occurs, it can leave a victim with serious physical wounds, disfigurement, and emotional scars. In addition, even dog attacks that do not involve actual bites can cause a victim to fall to the ground and suffer head trauma or broken bones.
If you’ve been bitten by someone else’s dog and suffered injuries as a result, you may be entitled to compensation by pursuing a personal injury action. However, it’s important to have an understanding of Alaska’s dog bite laws. While there is no statute that specifically provides for dog bite liability, an owner can still be held accountable under dog bite laws if they knew (or had reason to know) that their dog was aggressive.
Since there is no dog bite statute in Alaska, the “one-bite” rule is applied in cases involving dog attacks. A dog owner may be held liable for a bite if a victim can establish the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious propensity to cause injury to another. Simply put, a dog doesn’t necessarily need to have bitten someone previously to establish an owner’s negligence. The owner must simply have knowledge that the dog has a tendency to engage in aggressive behavior and have failed to properly secure the dog from hurting others.
A dog owner is primarily responsible for the actions of their pet. However, there may be other parties who could potentially be held liable in a dog attack case, depending on the circumstances. For instance, a rental management company or landlord may be to blame if they knew there was a dangerous dog and failed to take the necessary measures to protect others on the property.
Importantly, a dog bite claim in Alaska must be brought within two years from the date the injury occurred, unless an exception to the statute of limitations can be applied. Failure to do so can result in being forever barred from holding the negligent party accountable — and recovering compensation for your injuries.
A dog owner may attempt to raise a number of defenses to avoid liability for a dog bite. They may try to argue that you were trespassing — or they had no knowledge the dog was dangerous. An owner might also try to assert comparative negligence in a dog bite claim.
Under the comparative negligence doctrine, a victim can be held partly liable for a dog attack. For instance, the owner may argue that you failed to heed a “beware of dog sign” that was posted, or you caused the dog’s aggressive behavior by taunting it. If the owner can establish your actions contributed to the dog attack, any compensation awarded would be reduced by your share of the blame.
Dog bites can cause serious injuries, including puncture wounds, lacerations, broken bones, scars, nerve damage, eye injuries, and various bacterial infections. These types of injuries can require extensive medical treatment — as well as cause you to lose time from work and incur out of pocket expenses. There can also be a significant amount of physical pain and mental anguish associated with a dog bite injury. If you can establish that someone else’s negligence caused the dog bite that resulted in your injuries, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit under the dog bite laws in Alaska.
Specifically, recoverable damages in a dog bite case can include the following:
Pain and suffering damages are meant to compensate a victim for the emotional toll the dog attack took on their lives. For example, it can provide monetary compensation for the inconvenience, physical impairment, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement suffered due to the dog bite. In limited cases in which it can be established that the dog owner acted with malice or reckless disregard for others, punitive damages may be awarded. Not to be confused with compensatory damages, punitive damages are meant to punish the dog owner — and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
A dog attack can be a traumatic experience — and it’s essential to have a knowledgeable personal injury attorney by your side who knows the extent of the dog bite laws in Alaska and can help ensure you obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Proudly serving accident victims in Anchorage, Soldotna, Kenai, Palmer, Wasilla, and other areas of Alaska, The Trial Guy, Eric Derleth, is committed to representing clients for a wide array of personal injury matters, including those involving dog bites. Call 907-262-9164 to schedule a free consultation at our Anchorage or Soldotna office, or contact us online. Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.