In Louisiana, dog bite lawsuits are usually governed by the state’s dog bite statute. Louisiana’s dog bite statute is rather unique among the states, because it is based on negligence principles, making it more difficult for a victim to win a dog bite case than in most other states. Nevertheless, with the assistance of a skilled Louisiana dog bite lawyer, your chances of winning your case might be quite promising.
The Dog Bite Statute
Although the text of Louisiana’s dog bite statute includes the wording “strictly liable”, the rest of the wording makes it clear that negligence is the applicable standard of liability. To win a dog bite lawsuit under the statute, the victim must prove that:
- The dog owner knew or should have known that the dog’s behavior was likely to hurt someone
- the owner could have prevented the harm if he had acted with reasonable care
- the owner failed to exercise reasonable care, and
- the victim did not provoke the dog (problematically, this element requires the victim to prove that he did not do something).
Each of the four foregoing elements must be proven on a “more likely than not” standard, which is a much lower standard of proof than the standard of proof that is used in criminal cases. Keep in mind that the statute’s coverage is not limited to actual bite injuries – other injuries are covered too, even if the dog was simply being aggressively friendly.
Other Legal Theories
If the dog’s owner violated a local animal control law (by, for example, letting it wander onto other people’s property or failing to leash it in public), and if the violation was causally related to your injury, a Louisiana court is likely to rule that the defendant was automatically negligent due to his violation of the law. Remember that animal control ordinances vary from locality to locality.
In 2009 Louisiana, in response to several recent high-profile dog attacks, enacted a criminal dog bite statute that allows a judge to imprison a dog owner for up to six months and impose a $500 fine in the event of a dog attack caused by the owner’s criminal negligence. To commit criminal negligence, an owner’s conduct must be far more outrageous than the degree of culpability necessary to establish civil negligence in a lawsuit.
Of course, if the owner deliberately incited his dog to bite you, you will not only have a criminal claim against the owner, you will also have a civil claim.
A civil lawsuit and a criminal prosecution can proceed at the same time. Moreover, a conviction for criminal negligence can help you win your civil claim. Because of the different standards for criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits, you can still win a civil lawsuit even if the dog owner is acquitted of criminal charges.
Statute of Limitations
No U.S. state applies a shorter statute of limitations period than Louisiana — in almost all cases, you must file your lawsuit within a year of the date of the attack. Failure to do so will result in your complaint being thrown out of court without consideration of its merit.