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Mitch Grissim & Associates Combined 75 Years of Legal Experience
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Nashville Dog Bite Lawyer

Medical science has advanced considerably in recent years, especially in the area of dog bite injuries. Since doctors better understand these injuries today, the average animal attack settlement has increased considerably since the early 2000s. These physical and emotional injuries are usually catastrophic and permanent.

The diligent Nashville dog bite lawyers at Mitch Grissim & Associates work hard to obtain the compensation these victims need and deserve. Animal attack survivors need money to pay medical bills and otherwise carry on with their lives. Furthermore, these victims need closure. So, we build solid claims and do not give up until we obtain the best possible results under the circumstances.

Establishing Liability

Dog bite laws in most states try to strike a balance between the rights of injured victims and the rights of pet owners. So, these laws are often complex, and Tennessee is a good example. Multiple options are available, and they each have some pros and cons.

Tennessee pet owners are strictly liable for damages if the owner fails to properly control the animal and it attacks someone. Legally, a dog is running at large if it “goes uncontrolled by the dog’s owner upon the premises of another without the consent of the owner of the premises, or other person authorized to give consent, or goes uncontrolled by the owner upon a highway, public road, street or any other place open to the public generally.”

The law includes a residential exception. Guests are entitled to compensation under the strict liability law, but not family members.

Strict liability claims are relatively easy to prove in court. Provocation, which is outlined below, is the only effective defense. However, some pet owner jurors often believe strict liability laws are essentially financial penalties for pet ownership.

Other claims rely on scienter (knowledge). Owners are liable for damages regardless of the control they exert over the animal if it attacks someone and the owner knew the dog was potentially vicious. The “knowledge” element is defined in broad, victim-friendly ways. Evidence of knowledge includes:

  • Animal’s mischievous pre-bite behavior,
  • Aggressive barking,
  • Vicious growling, and
  • Previous attacks.

Victims must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in the Volunteer State.

Scienter claims are only available in limited situations. But even pet owner jurors are usually included to compensate these victims.

Finally, ordinary negligence and negligence per se could be available. Ordinary negligence is basically a lack of care, and negligence per se is the violation of a safety law. Both these doctrines usually involve a failure to properly restrain or control an animal.

Insurance Company Defenses

As mentioned, the provocation defense, which is an offshoot of contributory negligence, is available in all dog bite claims. Provocation is an intentional and physical act. In Tennessee, victims cannot accidentally provoke dogs by making loud noises or sudden  moves. Furthermore, aggressive teasing usually is not provocation. Instead, “provocation” is practically synonymous with “torture.”

The assumption of the risk defense sometimes comes up in negligence and scienter claims. Victims are legally and financially responsible for their own injuries if they voluntarily assume a known risk.

Contrary to popular myth, a “Beware of Dog” or other warning sign does not immunize owners. They must still prove that the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what the sign meant.

Contact a Dedicated Davidson County Dog Bite Lawyer

Animal attack victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Nashville, contact Mitch Grissim & Associates. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

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