Lincoln, Nebraska is a city of dogs. Whether walking downtown or hiking in Pioneer Park, you are sure to meet all sizes and breeds of dogs and their owners. But owning any dog comes with responsibility. Dog owners must prevent their animals from causing unreasonable harm to others. When circumstances turn unfortunate and you become the victim of a canine attack, it's important to have an experienced Lincoln dog bite lawyer on your side to protect your recovery.
After all, when a dog injures you or someone you love, it can be difficult to decide who may be responsible, and how to obtain the medical care needed.
Dog bites are frightening, painful events. The injuries which result may range from slight skin punctures to very serious deep lacerations requiring hundreds of stitches, multiple surgeries and in certain cases, may result in death. Psychological trauma may also result, depending on the circumstances of the event.
Our legal team at Steffens Law Offices wants you to be informed and as such, has provided you with the following information to help you understand basic legal principles, learn your rights, and teaches you how to find the right lawyer for your dog bite injury to aid you in obtaining full compensation for your injuries.
Understanding the Dog Bite Laws in Lincoln, NE
To better understand whther you need to hire a dog bite lawyer in Lincoln, you first need to understand the laws surrounding canine attacks in Nebraska.
Nebraska Revised Statute 54-601 states in part:
…the owner or owners of any dog or dogs shall be liable for any and all damages that may accrue (a) to any person, other than a trespasser, by reason of having been bitten by any such dog or dogs [or] (b) wounding, worrying, or chasing any person….
Interestingly, the wording of the statute means that dog owners in Nebraska are liable for all damages which result from the dog’s actions (like scratching, jumping on or knocking over a person) and not just “bites”. Moreover, the statute provides for “strict liability”, i.e., a reasonable inference can be made that an injured victim would not have to prove negligence or breach of any duty in order to recover damages. However, there exist various case laws that have created limitations to this rule.
Mischievous or Playful Behavior Limitation
One case law limitation to the statute above which is worth mentioning is the Mischievous or Playful Behavior restriction. Nebraska courts have repeatedly refused to hold persons liable under the statute above when a dog’s playful or mischievous behavior causes the injury.
Example: You are walking down the street when you see a friend walking his happy, non-aggressive dog. The friend lets the dog off his leash to greet you and the happy dog rushes toward you, excited to see you and receive some head pats. The enthusiastic dog accidently knocks you down, injuring you. You would likely not be able to recover your damages from the dog owner in court.
The One Bite Rule Limitation
The statute above has also been limited in several ways by Nebraska courts deciding dog bite cases over the years. One limitation is the “One Bite Rule” which is followed in several jurisdictions, including Lincoln, Nebraska. This rule essentially means that a person who is injured by a dog’s non-aggressive behavior and seeks to hold the owner, harborer, or keeper of the dog legally liable, must show that:
1) the dog (or other animal causing injury) had a propensity for dangerous action or activity (the “dangerous propensity”);
2) the owner, harborer or keeper was aware of the dangerous propensity; and
3) the animal’s dangerous propensity caused the injury.
This limitation is important to understand because it requires an injured person to supply sufficient evidence to show the person in control of the dog was aware that the dog causing injury was capable of dangerous behavior. So, if you are bitten or otherwise injured by a dog that has never bitten anyone nor shown any aggressive behavior, it’s unlikely you would prevail in court unless you can show that all three elements were present.
Example: Similar to the first example, but in this variation, your friend knows that whenever he takes his happy dog off the leash, the dog gets over excited and knocks anyone he is familiar with over. He is a large dog, and not well trained. The friend sees you, lets the dog off the leash, and the dog knocks you over, injuring you.
On this variation of facts, you have a better chance at recovering damages for your injuries in court because:
1) the dog had a dangerous propensity to knock people over,
2) The friend knew of the dog’s dangerous propensity, and
3) the dog’s dangerous propensity is what caused your injury.
Can Other People Be Held Responsible for Dog Bites?
Yes. According to our Lincoln dog bite lawyer, even though a dog’s owner would be primarily responsible for an injury, under certain circumstances other parties may held responsible. Landowners may be held responsible for a dog bite victim’s injuries, if the landowner knew or had reason to be aware that a dangerous dog was on the property and exposed lawful visitors to the property to injury. This matters because in certain situations, a dog owner may be liable but without assets or insurance to cover a victim’s medical bills or other needed care.
Example: A property owner rents a home to a tenant who owns and keeps a dangerous attack dog on the premises. The landlord knows that the attack dog lives on the property. While delivering the mail one day, a new mail carrier is bitten when she enters the property to deliver mail. On these facts, it’s likely both the dog owner and the landlord would be held liable for injuries suffered by the mail carrier.
What Kind of Lawyer Do You Need for a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Lincoln?
Personal injury lawyers are attorneys who practice civil law by advocating for clients that have suffered injury to person or property through the fault of another person. Dog bites are a specific type of personal injury, so a personal injury attorney would be a natural fit.
However, not all personal injury lawyers are created equal. A dog bite victim in Lincoln would be best served by a personal injury law firm with significant experience and understanding of the unique injuries and damages people sustain resulting from dog bites or attacks.
As we have shown above, Lincoln and the state of Nebraska have some interesting laws and limitations about dog bites and attacks. A dog bite or attack victim with serious injuries and damages would do well to select a law firm which understands these laws and their nuances, has experience using them to obtain settlements and verdicts from responsible parties, and can help with all aspects of a client’s case and recovery.
Steffens Law Offices employs lawyers with significant dog bite and attack experience. With over fifty years of combined experience in and outside the courtroom, helping hundreds of people obtain settlements for personal injuries, their lawyers are uniquely suited to help a dog bite or attack victim with every detail of their case.
What Does a Lincoln Dog Bite Lawyer Do?
- Investigate - First, a dog bite attorney in Lincoln, NE, will ask lots of questions about the event. Usually during a client interview, the lawyer will ask where the attack occurred, who owned the dog, and every detail of how the attack happened. The attorney will also ask about injuries and other damages, whether the victim went to the emergency room or hospital, and what care was given and how soon. The attorney will finally ask questions about the responsible party, what they knew about the dog and its behavior, and whether it has a history of dangerous activity. The lawyer should investigate all aspects of the event. This will supply the facts and evidence necessary to determine whether a case can be made against the responsible party, and whether full compensation for the victim’s injuries is likely. Only by knowing the facts and evidence thoroughly can the lawyer properly advise the victim and go ahead to making a demand.
- Medical Care and Treatment - Many people don’t realize that a big part of a dog bite injury lawyer’s job is to ensure that the victim receives all the appropriate medical care they need. After accepting the victim as client, the lawyer will go to work making sure that the victim reaches maximum medical improvement. Once the client has healed and completed all necessary medical treatment and therapy, the lawyer can then evaluate how much compensation will be necessary to look for from the responsible party. Surgeries, counseling, and cosmetic procedures necessary for a dog bite victim’s recovery can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
- Demand Stage - Once the facts and circumstances of the case are thoroughly understood, and after the client has reached maximum medical improvement, the lawyer will then craft a demand which details what the victim endured, the extent of care needed, and the amount of money sought from the responsible party and the relevant insurance company which fairly compensates the victim.
How does a Dog Bite Attorney Get Paid?
Most of, if not all, Lincoln dog bite attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means that a victim becomes a client and pays no lawyer fees until their case is settled or a verdict is reached at trial. Once settlement is reached, the lawyer deducts the attorney’s fee from the settlement and pays the client’s medical bills, then distributes the rest to the client.
How to Find the Best Dog Bite Injury Lawyer in Lincoln
This can be a subjective decision, as lawyers and clients are both human beings with unique needs. Generally, dog bite victims are best served by considering:
- Specialty - a law firm or lawyer’s specialty. Are they personal injury lawyers? Or just a law firm that occasionally takes a dog bite case, but typically does family law? Look for a firm that handles these cases regularly.
- Experience - Is this a first-year lawyer who has never been inside a courtroom? Another lawyer might be so experienced and busy that she doesn’t have time to pick up the phone to listen to a client’s concern or problem. Have they handled cases similar to yours? What was the outcome?
- Reputation – What do others have to say about this firm? Specifically, what do former clients have to say? Do they have a great reputation for treating their clients well and getting them the compensation they deserve? Check out their online reviews. Look for 4 and 5-star reviews that show great customer service and read comments carefully to see what you think about the firm
In any case, a good dog bite lawyer in Lincoln is easy to find on the internet, by phone, and even in person at the office. The point to take away is that all lawyers are servants of the people, and you should only choose one whom you believe will be a good fit for you and your situation.
Contact Our Experienced Lincoln Dog Bite Attorney
Call Steffens Law Office if you want lawyers who are passionate about listening and understanding clients to zealously advocate for their interests. Our Lincoln dog bite lawyer has experience with every kind of canine attack case, and will always take the time to meet with you in person and provide advice and service you can depend on. If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, call the attack lawyers at Steffens Law Offices in Lincoln at (308) 872-8327. We bite back.