CONNECTICUT DOG BITE, HORSE, & ANIMAL PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
If you, your child or your elderly parent have suffefered an animal induced injury by way of a dog bite, dog attack or overly aggressive dog play then you need Connecticut personal injury lawyer Peter Rotatori, III to help you, your child or your elderly parent recover damages for your physical and emotional personal injuries. A dog owner or keeper in Connecticut is liable for injury to person or property under Conn. Gen. Stat. 22-357. Many dog related injuries are not caused by dog bites but may be caused by dogs chasing, jumping or playing. There is Connecticut case law that helps define what it means to be a dog "keeper", although in general, a keeper is defined under
Conn. Gen. Stat. 22-327 as "any person, other than the owner, harboring, or having in his possession any dog."The term "harboring" means to provide lodging, shelter or refuge.
Simply walking a dog in and of itself does not mean that the dog walker is necessarily also a dog keeper. Proving that an individual is a dog keeeper is a question of fact. Generally, owners and keepers are not liable to each other but only to third parties outside of either an owner or keeper relationship. Connecticut is well known for its very liberal dog keeper and dog owner strict liability statute.
Often, dog related injuries occur to children. Many dog related injuries result in serious disfigurement to a child or adult's face or extremity. Often an attack by a dog can cause fear and severe emotional scarring to the injured person.
A homeowner liability policy may exclude insurance coverage for various types of dog if there is not a special insurance rider. This can result in no liability insurance coverage under the owners premises liability insurance policy. The attorney representing the injured child or adult needs to find out if the defendant dog keeper or owner has a valid liability policy that will indemnify the defendant owner or keeper for damages caused by the dog. Dogs such as Pit Bulls are often excluded under homeowner liability insurance policies. A homeowner who makes a material misrepresentation of fact on an application for homeowners insurance failing to disclose certain dog breeds such as a Pit Bull may have their insurance coverage voided after the claim is made for the dog bite attack. A coverage dispute will be apparent to the insured homeowner when the insurer sends them a reservation of rights letter reserving the right to disclaim coverage for the material misrepresentation of fact. Most dog bite claims filed against a homeowner with liability insurance will usually result in that particular homeowner's premises liability carrier not renewing the insured's policy.
Connecticut has a three year statute of limitations for personal injury or property damage caused by a dog under the "dog bite statute". If the action is brought under a negligence theory rather than the strict liability statute, the statute of limitation is two years. An action brought under a negligence theory would require the pleading and proving of notice on the part of the dog owner of the dog's propensity to bite or injure. Therefore, it makes no sense to bring suit other than under Connecticut's strict liability statute Conn. Gen. Stat. 22-357.
On occasion, our office has been required to both bring suit and secure a real property attachment by way of a prejudgment remedy where the dog owner or keeper either failed to timely notify their homeowner liability carrier about the dog attack or where the homeowner dog owner/keeper carried a homeowner liability policy that excluded the breed of dog that caused the attack.
Where personal injury or damage is caused by two or more dogs at the same time, kept by two or more people, the dog owners or keepers are joint and severally liable for the injury or damage under Conn. Gen. Stat 22-356.
HORSES AND LIVESTOCK
Other animal related injuries such as injuries caused by horses or livestock have common law liability depending on the location of the incident and whether the animal keeper has notice of the animal's propensity to commit mischief. In a private context such as injury at a riding stable, or horse farm, proving notice of the horses' propensity to commit mischief by kicking, bucking or biting is a requirement to show liability. Under the holding in Vendrella v Astriab Family Limited Partnership, 36 Conn. App. 630, 36 A. 3d 707 (2012), notice to invoke a duty of care on the horse owner or keeper is general notice of the horse as a class of domestic animal that possess a natural propensity to bite or be vicious rather than specific notice that the horse at issue in the case had on a prior occassion been vicious or bit someone. Where horses are located in a public area such as a roadway, street or highway proving notice of the horses propensity to be unruly is not a required provable element of what is called the prima facia case under carefully read Connecticut case law.
Where a person engages in equestrian recreational sports such as horse jumping or riding that person assumes the risk and legal responsibility for any personal injury inherent in the hazards of equestrian sport under Conn. Gen. Stat 52-557p. This statute does provide an exception if the injury is proximately caused by the negligence of the horse provider for failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity. This exception also extends to the horse provider's agents and employees.
In Reardon v. Windswept Farm, LLC., 280 Conn. 153, 905 A.2d 1156 (2006) a defendant riding stable required a horseback riding student to sign a release limiting liability for its negligence. The court held that this release was not enforceable as a public policy violation. The court rational was that riding students were not equipped to discern whether they were paired negligently with a horse instructor with experience commensurate with the rider's skill, the stable controlled the horse, the stable controlled the assigned instructor and the stable was open to the public. The Reardon case clearly holds that an exculpatory equestrian agreement that attempts to release an operating horse stable from liability for its own negligence is against public policy even where the Connecticut legislature has recognized inherent risk in the the sport of horesback riding and horseback jumping.
MEDICAL CARE, DISFIGUREMENT, SURGICAL REVISION, DERMABRASION & SETTLEMENT
Our office will often have a plastic surgeon examine our client to determine if surgical revision is required. Our experience has been that most plastic surgeons will wait one year from the dog bite incident or corrective surgery, what ever is latest, to determine if any scar or disfigurement will be permanent. Whether the injured child or adult needs surgical correction to minimize the visual effects of the injury is usually addressed by the plastic surgeon on a case by case basis. There are many fine plastic surgeons that have a specialty in treating children.
We have found that many plastic surgeons will wait one year from incident to decide on a recommendation for corrective cosmetic plastic surgery. A catastrophic disfigurement can require immediate surgical correction.This however, is a medical issue that should always be addressed between the injured plaintiff patient or guardian and the patient's physician.
Our law firm has found in practice that many modest dog bit injuries can be remedied not by surgical revision but by dermabrasion. The dermabrasion is a plastic surgeon's attempt to reduce an alteration of a patient's skin color caused by the dog attack. The skin area may also be irregular, raised or jagged. A dermabrasion can be done to mitigate the raised and discolored condition also known as dyschromia. This medical topic should be discussed between the client and the client's physician to determine if the medical procedure is medically appropriate. Even with a dermabrasion, often the client is still left with a residual permanent disfigurement. This medical procedure is often done after both wound maturation and the preliminary use of a hydrocortisone cream applied to the scar.
The plaintiff's attorney should always secure photos immediately after the attack to document the clients injuries. The attorney should then secure photos approximately one year after the attack to document the permanent nature of the disfigurement. Most liability insurance carriers will want to see photos immediately after an injury and one year after the injury. Often, as is the case with children, an insurance liability carrier will personally want to inspect the child's scar or disfigurement. This is especially true if the injury is located on the face, forehead, neck, or visible extermity. This can be done at the office of the injured plaintiff's attorney.
Any opportunity that the lawyer for the plaintiff has to convince the insurance adjuster of the serious nature of a disfigurement or scar should be taken advantage of by the attorney. Our experience has been that many liability carriers will have an insurance liability claims manager come to our office to examine the disfigurement. This is especially true when a child has been injured.
Many liability carriers will offer as part of any dog bite settlement a structured settlement by way of a deferred annuity pay out. The structured settlement is often an excellent way to defer a monetary pay out to a child when that child reaches various stages of adulthood. This can help to pay for future medical costs, college tuition,weddings, the purchase of a home or any other need the minor child will have when they become an adult.
The structure settlement pay out can be staggered over specific years. All minor personal injury settlements of $10,000 or more must be approved by a Probate Court. This also includes all upfront "cash" settlements which the Probate Court will require be placed in a restricted account. The attorney should also inform the client of the present cash value of the proposed annuity before the client agrees to the structured annuity as part of any settlement. Additionally, many accounting software programs can calculate the interest rate pay out.
A personal injury to an adult or child caused by a dog, horse or livestock is a serious personal injury matter that may result in permanent injury and scarring requiring immediate fact investigation. Contact Peter Rotatori, III of The Rotatori Law Firm at 203 264 3313 to explore and/or secure money damages and peace of mind for your injuries.
The Rotatori Law Firm practices Connecticut dog bite and animal injury law in New Haven County in the following cities and towns: Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Branford, Cheshire, Derby, East Haven,Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Naugatuck, New Haven,North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Seymour, Southbury, Wallingford,Waterbury, West Haven, Wolcott, and Woodbridge.