Even if your dog doesn’t like medical treatment, your vet doesn’t expect him to bite. When a dog does attack, the injuries are often painful and costly. You can expect the vet to file a lawsuit to recover money for his injuries.
Your Vet May Not Have the Right to Recover Damages
In Nevada, you owe nothing until an injured person proves that he has a valid case. Because he is a veterinarian, you may raise liability defenses that could make him partially responsible for his own injuries. The vet will still have several viable legal theories that could be the basis of a successful lawsuit.
- The “one-bite” rule
- A “dangerous” or ” vicious” dog designation
- Dog owner’s negligence
- Negligence per se
How does an Injured Vet Prove You’re Responsible for Your Dog’s Actions?
As with any claim for damages, the injured person needs more than an injury to file a successful claim or lawsuit. He must have evidence to support his case. A Las Vegas dog bite Injury lawyer can develop a viable liability theory to establish legal responsibility.
Is the Incident Covered by the “One Bite Rule?”
Under Nevada’s “one-bite” doctrine, you have no responsibility unless the injured person proves your dog has a biting history. If your dog has bitten others, it establishes a pattern of behavior that supports the vet’s injury claim or lawsuit. The Las Vegas Health Officer or the Animal Control Officer maintains bite records that may help prove his case.
Las Vegas Code §7.24.020 requires an owner or anyone else to report all dog bites to the Health Officer or Animal Control Officer. Further, §7.24.120 requires the Animal Regulation Officer to maintain an accurate record of all dog bites. This process serves primarily to monitor dogs for potential rabies infections and owners for potential legal violations. The formal record of prior bites can also help a vet prove that you are liable for your dog’s actions.
What does Las Vegas Consider a “Dangerous” or “Vicious” Dog?
An owner is responsible when his “dangerous” or “vicious” dog bites someone. An Animal Regulation Officer can declare a dog dangerous or vicious under Las Vegas Code §7.16 – Dangerous Animals.
When Can an ARO Declare a Dog “Dangerous”?
A dog becomes a physical threat to humans or animals two times within 18 months if:
- He behaves menacingly or bites someone.
- He bites someone without causing substantial bodily harm.
Without considering prior behavior, the dog’s actions constitute a threat to humans and animals when:
- The owner uses the dog to commit a crime.
- The dog causes serious injury or death to another animal that isn’t at large or in violation of a statute.
- An Animal Control Officer believes the dog is a threat to public safety.
When Can an ARO Declare a Dog “Vicious”?
An Animal Regulation Officer may declare a dog vicious if it’s a threat to humans and animals and has displayed these behaviors before:
- It killed or caused substantial harm to a human or animal.
- After being declared dangerous, it continued displaying dangerous behaviors.
An Owner Can be Held Negligent if His Dog Bites Someone
A vet can recover damages if the evidence proves that your dog bit him because you committed a negligent act. One example of this is if you took your dog into the vet’s examination room without permission while he was examining another sick dog. The situation could easily trigger an adverse response.
A dog owner is legally responsible if he violates a municipal dog ownership statute and it leads to an attack. When a dog owner violates a municipal statute, he is also subject to criminal charges and fines. The violation could involve:
- Failing to confine a dangerous dog
- Failure to warn about a dangerous dog
What Type of Damages Can a Vet Recover by Filing a Lawsuit?
In Nevada, if a vet’s lawsuit is successful, he may recover three types of injury damages:
- Compensatory: These are based on current and future out-of-pocket expenses. Compensatory damages consist of medical bills, lost wages, prescriptions, and other costs incurred during recovery.
- Non-Economic: A settlement for non-economic damages includes financial consideration for pain, suffering, and other psychological and emotional trauma.
- Punitive or exemplary: Juries award punitive or exemplary damages based on Nevada Revised Statutes §42.005. As a plaintiff, a veterinarian must produce “clear and convincing evidence” that proves you were guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice.
- Wrongful death: If a vet sustains fatal injuries, his attorney may recover damages for his family and estate.
Defenses You Can Use to a Dog Bite Lawsuit
It’s not easy for a Las Vegas resident to recover damages if your dog bites them. Not only must the injured person prove that you are legally responsible, but they must also overcome your defenses to their lawsuit, such as:
- The injured person was a trespasser on their property.
- The injured person or animal provoked the dog to attack.
- The attacked animal was at large or otherwise violating a statute.
These defenses don’t usually apply to a veterinarian. Still, you have other defenses based on his profession and his unique relationship with your pet, such as:
- Assumption of risk. When a person chooses to work with dogs, they know or should know the inherent bite risk. They chose to assume the risk anyway.
- Provocation: A vet can restrain animals, gives them injections, and performs other uncomfortable medical services. They should know their actions may provoke your dog.
Overcoming a Vet’s Dog Bite Defense
With the right evidence, a vet’s attorney can navigate your defenses, such as:
- If he proves that you had unfavorable information about your dog’s past behavior but failed to reveal it, it diminishes any assumption of risk defense.
- If you were holding or restraining your dog when he bit the vet, it lessens any provocation defense.
Who Pays if a Vet Sues?
If you have a homeowners policy or a renter’s policy, it usually has liability coverage. Your insurer will investigate the dog bite claim. If the vet files a lawsuit, they should defend it. If he is successful in making a claim or obtaining a judgment, your insurance company should pay.
You should verify your liability coverage before your dog bites someone. Some insurers write policies that exclude liability coverage for certain types of dog breeds.
Schedule Your Free Legal Consultation with an Attorney Today
When your dog bites someone, that person has a legal right to sue you if you’re the responsible party. At Pacific West Injury Law, our attorneys work hard to overcome even the most difficult legal challenges. When you contact us, we schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We’re ready to protect your legal rights and produce the best possible outcome.