Understanding options for dog bite victims in Tennessee

Dog may be a man's best friend but that does not preclude the instance of serious personal injury or even death being caused to a human due to a dog bit or attack. Over the last 16 years, the Center for Disease Control has reported an increase in serious dog attacks by over 90 percent nationwide.

Dogsbite.org statistics from 2012 indicate that a total of 38 people died after attacks by dog, including an 84-year old Tennessee woman who was attacked by her grandson's Pit Bull. Such incidents showcase the need for Tennessee residents to be aware of the dangers and realities of dog bites.

Tennessee dog bite statutes

The state of Tennessee is often referred to as a mixed dog bite statute state. In Tennessee, dog owners are liable for damages resulting from injuries or death caused to others by their dogs. However, the state also has what is referred to as a "residential exception" that all but eliminates liability on the dog owner's property. For victims of dog bites, this makes the option of receiving proper compensation much more difficult but does not mean that it is impossible.

In order to receive compensation from a dog owner, a victim or representative, in the case of a fatality, must be able to prove the following three things in a lawsuit:

  • That the dog was owned by the defendant
  • That the victim's injury or death was caused by the defendant's dog
  • That the defendant was aware that his or her dog was dangerous

The latter point is often the most difficult yet important for injured persons to show. Compensation is typically solicited from either a homeowner's policy, renter's insurance policy or other insurance policy carried by a landlord or property owner. In some cases, however, such policies may not cover certain breeds of dogs commonly known to be involved in attacks, such as Dobermans and Pit Bulls.

Common injuries

Of the estimated 4.5 million dog bites annually, approximately 20 percent require hospitalization. For young children, the head and neck are the most common areas of injury while for older and larger children and adults, the extremities and particularly arms and hands are the most commonly attacked areas. About 45 percent of attacks on persons over 14 are reported on arms and hands, 25 percent on feet or legs and around 23 percent on heads or necks.

Getting the right help matters

Because Tennessee's laws can make proving liability challenging, ensuring that you have the right help when you or someone you love has been attacked by a dog is very important. Contacting an attorney with experience in this area can be your best route to obtaining the compensation you deserve.


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