If you have suffered injuries from a dog attack in Arkansas, you may sue the dog owner. Although the Arkansas state government has not enacted a specific dog bite statute, many local governments have enacted ordinances. Even without a local ordinance, you can apply general principles of civil liability to obtain compensation for your injuries.
The “One Bite Rule”
Unless a local ordinance provides otherwise, Arkansas apples a “one bite rule” to dog bite cases. The name is a bit misleading – the idea behind the one bite rule is that a dog owner is not liable for dog bite injuries unless he had prior reason to know of the dog’s dangerous tendencies. Obviously, if the dog had bitten someone before and the owner knew about it, he would have reason to know of the dog’s dangerous tendencies and would be liable if the dog bit again.
In Arkansas counties with strict liability dog bite ordinances, a dog owner can be held liable even if the dog had never acted aggressively before. The vast majority of Arkansas counties have no such ordinance.
Even if the one bite rule does not apply to your case, you might be able to win by showing that the owner acted negligently in a manner that caused his dog to bite you. The owner might be found liable if, for example, he trained the dog as an attack dog and then let it roam freely without a leash. Another way you might establish negligence would be to prove that the owner violated an animal control law, such as a leash law. A negligence-based lawsuit might also be an option if you want to sue someone other than the dog owner – if the injury occurred while the dog was in the custody of a trainer, for example.
If you believe that a dog owner deliberately sent his dog to attack you, you may have an intentional tort claim against the owner. In this case, you might be able to receive punitive damages in addition to the usual compensatory damages. You might also be able to file a criminal complaint against the dog owner.
The Criminal Dog Bite Statute
Although Arkansas has no civil dog bite statute, it has passed a criminal dog bite statute that penalizes a dog owner for negligently allowing a vicious dog to cause death or serious injury. The prosecutor must initiate the prosecution, and the case must be proven under the stringent “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. If the owner is convicted, he will have to pay for your medical expenses but not for your pain and suffering. Of course, you can initiate a separate civil lawsuit against the dog owner, and the owner’s conviction in criminal court can be used as evidence to help you win your case.
Statute of Limitations
In general, you have three years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit over a dog bite. If you miss the deadline, even negotiating a private settlement will be useless, since you will have no legal leverage. Certain narrow exceptions apply to the three-year deadline.
For help with a dog bite case in Arkansas, contact one of our lawyers today.