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Is a dog's owner responsible if their animal bites your child?

As a parent, you probably do everything in your power to protect your children. However, not everything in this world is under your control. You could take your child to play in a park, for a walk in your neighborhood or for a visit with a friend only to have your child seriously hurt by a dog bite.

Dog bites can cause all kinds of serious medical issues. The initial trauma of the bite may cause bleeding lacerations, broken bones or damaged tendons. The initial damages may be complicated by antibiotic-resistant infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Your child could require surgery to repair damaged tissue, plastic surgery to mitigate scars and many hours of therapy to address resulting emotional traumas and phobias. It's only natural to wonder who is responsible for all of those mounting expenses.

Mississippi dog bite cases depend on negligence and other issues

There are many things the courts in Mississippi consider when determining if a dog's owner is liable for the injuries caused in an attack. Being in a public space where the dog escaped fencing or was not properly leashed when it attacked can establish negligence, which often makes the owner liable for the damages.

In cases where you were legally on the owner's property, it can be harder to demonstrate negligence. However, if the dog has previously bitten anyone before, that can be sufficient grounds to demonstrate that the owner had reason to know their dog posed a threat to the public and therefore, your child.

The courts will consider may factors that contribute to the case

If the dog in question was raised for defense, had an abusive past or has a record of aggressive behavior, that may help you hold the owner accountable. While there used to be adherence to a legal concept called "one free bite," courts have begun to stray from that in recent years. One free bite basically implies that no owner should have to take extraordinary measures to secure an animal that hasn't displayed violent tendencies in the past.

Legal precedent in Mississippi has lead the courts to move away from this particular standard. That means that dogs that have not bitten before but have engaged in dangerous or vicious actions, e.g., snarling, snapping or growling at people, could be perceived as vicious by the court. Any warning signs on the property about the dog could also substantiate the claim that the owner knows the dog posed a risk to people.

Finally, the breed of the animal may play a factor in the outcome of the case. Breeds associated with human attacks and bites, such as pit bulls, could be reasonably expected to pose a threat to humans.

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