Personal injury matters involving dogs are fairly common. They can be divided into two main categories. The first encompasses cases involving dog bites, claw scratches, or other aspects of a dog attack. The second category of dog liability concerns motor vehicle accidents caused by roaming dogs.
For dog attacks, Iowa Code 351.28 states that "[t]he owner of a dog shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the dog, when the dog is caught in the action of worrying, maiming, or killing a domestic animal, or the dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person, except when the party damaged is doing an unlawful act, directly contributing to the injury. " That is a "strict liability" statute, meaning that the dog's owner is automatically liable for injuries that fall within the statute's terms without the need to prove the owner's negligence or knowledge of the dog's vicious or dangerous propensities. This statute also creates the possibility of an action for personal injuries against a dog's owner if a person is hurt while trying to escape a dog attack, for example a person who flees from a dog attack into a street and is hit by a car.
In some circumstances, people other than a dog's owner may be liable for injuries sustained during an attack by a dog. One example is people who are possessing, "keeping," or "harboring" a dog for someone else. That person may be liable for negligence if someone is hurt during an attack by the dog and it is proved that that person possessed, kept, or harbored a dog on the property that was known or should have been known to have dangerous tendencies. Thus, while legal owners are strictly liable under Iowa Code 351.28, individuals possessing, keeping, or harboring the dog on their property could also be held liable for damages if it can be proven that they knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous or potentially dangerous based upon prior experiences.
Another example of non-owner liability is landlords. A landlord that allows a dog known to be aggressive to roam around the common areas of leased property may liable for negligence if that dog attacks someone in the common area, even if the landlord is not harboring or keeping the dog and has no control over the dog. Another possible avenue of landlord liability is when the landlord harbors or controls a dog owned by someone else and knows or should know that the dog is dangerous. In that instance, the landlord is liable for dog attack injuries that occur anywhere on the premises, even outside of common areas.
Because dog owners are strictly liable for dog attacks in Iowa, a frequent area of dispute concerns which person is the dog's "owner." The Iowa Code defines the owner of the dog as “the person to whom the dog legally belongs.” In determining dog ownership and thus liability for a dog attack, we review all available information from various sources, including animal control, municipal dog licensing documents, and even the dog's veterinary records.
Dog bites can have significant and life-altering consequences. Infections, extensive lacerations, disfigurement, scarring, and permanent mental distress can result from a dog attack. Especially damaging are dog attacks on children, not only to the child but also to the parents who may witness the attack and try to stop it and who will also be the primary person helping the child recover after the attack.
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The other main category of dog-related liability concerns motor vehicle accidents caused by dogs that are running free. Dog owners have a duty to control their dogs. A dog that gets free and, for example, runs into a street and causes an accident, may be the basis for a negligence claim against the dog's owner or the person responsible for keeping or harboring the dog.
Iowa law provides strong remedies if you or a loved one is bitten by a dog or is injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a dog. You may be able to recover money damages for, among other things, past and future medical expenses, past and future physical and mental pain and suffering, and past and future disability or loss of function of the body. If the accident caused a death, an additional series of money damages for wrongful death may also be applicable. We invite you to take a moment to browse additional information about money damages that we've provided on our Personal Injury And Wrongful Death page.
Our Des Moines law firm can help in two ways if dog-related injuries cause you trouble at work or results in your firing. First, Iowa law allows you to recover economic damages for lost wages or loss of earning capacity caused by an accident. Second, our firm also handles employment law matters, including claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act , a federal law that may protect your job if you have to miss work to deal with your own or a loved one's injuries stemming from an accident.
Our Des Moines law firm has tried numerous personal injury claims. If you or a loved one have been injured by a dog, please take a moment to learn about your rights by reviewing the information provided on this site. We also offer additional, more specific information about various topics at our on-site and off-site blogs that we hope you'll find helpful. If, after reviewing this information, you'd like to speak with us about your motor vehicle accident case, please reach out to us through the Web Contact Form by using the "Contact Us" button or by calling (515) 281-1460. We make every effort to provide a same-day response to all communications received during weekday business hours. It'll be our pleasure to meet with you at no charge, learn more about your situation, and lend you a helping hand in your time of need.
Erbe Law Firm
2501 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50312
Erbe Law Firm has proudly served clients throughout Iowa since 2005 from our Des Moines offices. We look forward to hearing from you to see whether we can do the same for you.
Harley C. Erbe