Any dog can be dangerous if caught at the wrong time. If you've been attacked, call 601-988-8888. With more than a third of families owning at least one dog, it’s not uncommon to cross paths with a parent and child walking their pet or a pup tied up outside a store. Most of these encounters pass without incident, but all it takes to change that is one vicious dog and a few seconds.
What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Laws in Mississippi
After being bitten by a dog, you may incur large medical expenses for disease testing, wound treatment, or even reconstructive surgery. Victims of dog bites may also sustain psychological harm from the trauma of the experience. If your injury is the direct result of a pet owner failing in their duty to train and/or control their dog, you could be able to recover damages through their insurance or the legal system.
Here’s what you should know if you or a loved one has been injured by an out-of-control dog.
The “One Free Bite” Rule and Mississippi Law
Many states specify that dog owners are responsible at all times for their pets’ behavior. However, Mississippi law is based on an old doctrine known as the “one free bite” rule. This approach allows owners to assume their dogs are harmless until proven otherwise. Only a dog’s first bite, the philosophy goes, proves that the animal may threaten others. After this point, it is an owner’s duty to control their pet so it does not injure anyone else. Otherwise, they can assume their dog will not endanger others and therefore cannot be held liable for an unexpected attack.
Though this rule is not codified in our state’s law, it does guide the approach we take for dog bite cases. The Mississippi Supreme Court case Poy v. Grayson laid out the expectation that if a dog owner knew or should have known their animal had a propensity toward meanness and might attack, they could be held liable for any injuries inflicted by it. If there were no warning signs, pet owners could not be forced to compensate the victim of their dog’s aggression.
The Poy case narrowed the scope of the “one free bite” doctrine by holding that even if a dog had not previously bitten anyone, behaviors like
- snapping at,
or otherwise making threatening movements toward a person indicated a potential proclivity for violence. Therefore, if such actions preceded the bite, a victim could argue that the owner should have foreseen the danger and taken necessary steps to keep the dog under control.
Other Dog-Related Injuries
Though bites are the most common type of dog-caused injury brought before courts, they are not the only danger people face. Dogs’ claws can cause harm, and a dog running at a person (or even a biker) could knock them over and result in fractures, sprains, or even head injuries.
Such cases have less legal precedent to guide them, but they are approached in the same way as dog bite claims. In order to receive compensation, a victim must prove that the attack was foreseeable and could have been prevented but for the owner’s negligence.
What to Do After an Attack
If you are attacked by a dog, ask the owner for their name and contact information before they leave the scene. At the very least, you will need to check with them and/or their veterinarian to see whether you are at risk for rabies. You also may need to request compensation for your injuries should medical bills, missed work, and other expenses start to add up.