New Mexico Dog Bite Lawyer

Will Ferguson & Associates - Experienced New Mexico Dog Bite Lawyers

Every day, nearly 1,000 people in the United States experience serious dog bite injuries that require emergency medical attention. Dog bites can pose a significant threat to the health and life of both children and adults, as well as other pets in the community. Because dog bite injury cases are difficult to deal with and can lead to serious complications, hospitalizations, and fatalities, speaking with a skilled dog bite attorney is a valuable resource for victims and their families.

The attorneys at Will Ferguson & Associates have been protecting the rights of injured victims throughout New Mexico for decades. Having an experienced dog bite attorney on your side is important to the success of your personal injury lawsuit. 

Compassion, communication, and persistence are traits of our knowledgeable New Mexico personal injury lawyers. If a dog has attacked you or someone you love, you need to speak to a knowledgeable New Mexico dog bite lawyer. Call Will Ferguson & Associates today to discuss your injuries to see if you have the right to file a claim for your injuries and losses. 

Our Approach to Dog Bite Cases is Tenacious

A dog attack is as serious as any other personal injury or animal attack. Depending on the seriousness of the attack, dog bite injuries can be life-altering. These cases can be extremely personal and cause emotional and physical trauma to the victim and their loved ones, especially if a life is lost. 

Personal injury claims are complicated, so it’s in your best interest to talk to a lawyer who can protect your rights. When a dog attacks someone, there are many things to consider: whether or not the dog has had previous incidents and whether the dog's owner was aware of the dog's aggressive behavior prior to the dog bite incident in question. The dog owner and dog bite victim may even know each other, making the case more personal and complicated.

Do I Need to Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer in New Mexico?

If you have suffered an injury from a dog bite, you aren’t required to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you, but it is in your best interest to at least discuss the incident with one.  They can provide guidance on how to protect your rights if you decide to file a claim at a later date.

There are many personal injury lawyers in New Mexico, so it would be best to locate one who is experienced in dog bite injuries.  Animal attack injuries are a specific type of personal injury, and you need a New Mexico dog bite lawyer who has specific knowledge and experience in complex dog bite cases. You also need your lawyer to be familiar with New Mexico dog bite law, and New Mexico dog bite lawyers know about specific city laws as well. The dog bite lawyers at Will Ferguson & Associates will work tirelessly on your dog bite injury claim.

Why Choose Will Ferguson & Associates After a New Mexico Dog Bite Injury?

It is always better to consult a local lawyer. Our New Mexico dog bite lawyers have familiarity with this community. Our attorneys have many years of experience and a wealth of knowledge that can help you get the best possible outcome for your dog bite situation. We will steadfastly fight for the results you deserve so you can receive a full and fair compensation for the cost of medical treatment, loss of income, and pain and suffering.

Fortunately, you don't have to spend any money on dog bite lawyers before finding one that's right for you. We offer free consultation so you can gain some perspective on your situation.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

There are many injuries that can occur when a dog bites a person. Some of the most common injuries related to dog bites are as follows:

  • Broken or punctured skin
  • Tissue damage
  • Broken bones
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Face injuries
  • Eye injuries
  • Scarring
  • Nerve damage
  • Post traumatic stress disorder

Dogs have immense pressure in their jaws and can cause catastrophic injuries that can even result in death. 

A dog's mouth is also full of  bacteria, which can lead to infection, increasing the severity of the dog bite injury. Tissue damage, nerve damage, and permanent scarring cause aesthetic and functional problems.

Different Levels of Dog Bites in New Mexico 

There are different levels of dog bites depending on the severity:

  • Level 1: The dog shows aggressive behavior, including snapping at the person. There is contact with the dog's mouth only.
  • Level 2: The dog's teeth make contact with the person's skin, but do not break it.
  • Level 3: The dog leaves 1 to 4 puncture wounds in the skin, with the punctures being half the depth of the canine's teeth or less. Most aggressive dogs are at this level.
  • Level 4: The dog leaves puncture wounds like Level 3, but they are more than half the depth of the canine's teeth. Also, the dog often leaves bruising by shaking its head from side to side.
  • Level 5: The dog leaves multiple Level 4 dog bite injuries and has previously bitten people before.
  • Level 6: The attack results in the death of the person or animal.

People Who Are Most at Risk of Dog Bites

Children, especially those under 10 years old, are the most at risk of dog bites. They make up nearly half of all reported dog bite victims. Children predominantly experience facial injuries and life-threatening injuries as a result of the dog attack. Nearly 2/3 of those aged 4 and under have injuries involving the head and neck, due to their height. Injuries are also more common for boys than for girls.

The elderly and postal service carriers are also frequent victims of dog attacks. People are more at risk of being attacked by a dog in cities than in rural areas, and more at risk in peri-urban than urban areas.

What is Bite Force in a Dog?

The bite force of a dog is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch. It can indicate the kind of injuries a dog is capable of inflicting. Those dog breeds with the strongest bite force are:

  • Kangal: 743 PSI
  • American Bandogge or Bandog Dog: 730 PSI
  • Cane Corso: 700 PSI
  • Dogue de Bordeaux: 556 PSI
  • Tosa Inu: 556 PSI
  • English Mastiff: 556 PSI
  • Dogo Canario: 540 PSI
  • Dogo Argentino: 500 PSI
  • Wolfdog: 406 PSI
  • Leonberger: 399 PSI
  • Akita Inu: 350-400 PSI
  • Rottweiler: 328 PSI

Pitbulls have a bite force of 235 PSI, making it one of the weakest. The average human bite force is 150-200 PSI.

Most Common Breeds Involved in Dog Bite Cases

The bite force is not the only factor in a dog bite injury case. Certain dog breeds are involved most often in dog attacks, whether against people or other animals. They are:

  • Pitbull
  • Rottweiler
  • German Shepherd
  • Presa Canario
  • Wolf-dog hybrids
  • Chihuahua
  • English Bulldog
  • Bulldog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bull Terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Papillon

Every state has popular dog breeds. In New Mexico, they are the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever, and the Bulldog. The top 5 dog breeds with the most attacks in the United States are the Pitbull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Presa Canario, and wolf-dog hybrids. The Siberian Husky, Akita, Boxer, Chow-Chow and mutts also have high rates of attacks.

Pit bulls account for 60% of bite injuries, 63% of ocular injuries, and 66% of fatalities. Despite popular belief, they do not have a locking jaw. They do hold on to their victims longer than other dog breeds while biting though, increasing injury.

Traits of Dangerous Dogs

When a dog is displaying aggression there are certain body language signs they exhibit that may indicate that they are going to bite. These signs include growling, snarling, a hard stare, lunging, snapping, hair standing up on their back and/or biting. Dogs that have a dominant and aggressive nature often engage in excessive low-range barking, growling, snarling, snapping, staring, holding ears erect, standing tall, carrying their tail high, and stiffly moving it from side to side.

Some of these signs may appear harmless to anyone who is not familiar with dog aggression. Since dogs also growl at each other or at people while playing, such behavior can seem playful. To make matters worse, sometimes there is no warning sign at all before a dominant aggressive dog bites.

Some physical and personality features of vicious dogs can be:

  • Unaltered (not neutered)
  • A large size
  • A strong, muscular body
  • Agility
  • Powerful jaws
  • Stubborn
  • Independent
  • Untrustworthy around other dogs
  • A strong prey drive

Causes of Dog Bite Injuries

A major factor that determines whether a dog is vicious is genetics, including inbreeding. However, more significant factors are whether the dog is neutered or spayed, supervised, safely confined, humanely trained, and properly socialized. All of these factors are taken into consideration in a dog bite claim. Responsible dog owners can and should prevent vicious dogs from acting attacking people or other animals.

Dog attacks are more common in lower income neighborhoods, where dogs are less likely to be neutered and restrained. Dog parks are another area where unrestrained dogs are common. Dogs that have shown aggression toward other dogs should never be unrestrained, even in dog parks. A dog bite case generally involves an unrestrained dog, whether on or off the dog owner's property.

Even dogs that have been socialized and trained can bite people or animals after rough playing or provocation. Rough playing causes pain and a dog may react with aggression in self-defense. Provocation includes behavior such as staring into the dog's eyes and feeding or handling the dog when it is not familiar with the person.

Teaching young children to be gentle with dogs is important, as is keeping babies and very young children away from dogs. Parents should always be present to supervise whenever their children are in the same room with any dog, no matter how docile the dog may seem.

Aggressive behavior in dogs

Dogs do not display only one type of aggressive behavior. Below are several types of aggression depending on the situation:

  • Fear Aggression, in which the dog is afraid of a strange person
  • Territorial Aggression, in which the dog is protecting their territory
  • Idiopathic Aggression. in which the dog displays explosive, intense aggression without a known trigger or stimulus
  • Predatory Aggression, in which the dog thinks of someone as prey
  • Intra-Household Aggression, in which the dog is aggressive toward other dogs in the household
  • Control Aggression, in which the dog is aggressive against punishment or hostility
  • Resource Guarding/Possession Aggression, in which the dog is protecting resources or possessions

Many breeds that cause dog bite injuries are typically working dogs. Some examples are hunting and guard dogs, which have a strong hunting drive or desire to protect the owner. Such dogs need proper stimulation, training, and socialization to constructively channel their instincts. They enjoy having "jobs" to do.

Most types of dog aggression can be avoided with responsible dog owners. 

Dog Bite Laws in New Mexico

There is no specific dog bite law in New Mexico. New Mexico dog bite law adheres to Angel's Law, an ordinance that distinguishes three threats:

  • Potentially dangerous dog: A dog that is a threat to people, including other dog owners or pet owners. The dog shows aggressive behavior, such as chasing, menacing, and causing non-serious injury to a person or a pet owner's companion animal.
  • Dangerous dog: A dog that has caused serious injury to or killed a person or a pet owner's companion animal without provocation, and was previously a potentially dangerous dog.
  • Irresponsible dog owner: A dog owner who is incapable of humanely or safely owning and properly restraining their dog.

The “One Bite” Rule in New Mexico

New Mexico is one of 16 states that recognize the "one bite" rule. Originating in common law, this rule is often invoked for dog bite lawsuits. It states that a dog owner is liable for a dangerous dog and any damages the dog causes if the dog owner knew (or could have reasonably been assumed to know) that the dog was being vicious or had a vicious nature.

The one bite rule is obviously not the only factor in determining whether an owner is accountable.

Who Is Liable for Dog Bites in New Mexico, NM?

In New Mexico, dog owners are liable for dog bites from dangerous dogs. There is a caveat, however. Any dog in question must first have previously bitten someone while displaying aggression. In other words, the dog has to have caused a bite injury to someone in the past.

Also, the dog owner is liable for damages the dog directly caused if the dog owner was aware or should have been aware that the dog was being aggressive or had an aggressive nature. If the dog owner can prove they were not aware or that the person provoked the dog to bite, they can use that as a defense against strict liability.  

The owner's knowledge of the dog's temperament, conduct, and the location of the occurrence are just a few examples of the many factors that can be used to evaluate the dog owner's liability for injuries and property damage. In other words, if the owner knows that their dog is or has the potential to be aggressive and bite, but does nothing to stop it, they may be held accountable.

Can Anyone Other Than the Dog Owner Be Held Responsible? 

New Mexico law regarding dog bite lawsuits has much in common with personal injury law in which the property owner knew there was a safety hazard but failed to inform the visitor or properly secure the hazard. To receive dog bite compensation, the injured party must prove that the dog owner was aware the dog would bite.

The dog owner is held liable if they did not properly control their dog around another person or pet owner. The liability applies with all lawful presence of other parties on their private property. If the dog escapes the property, the dog owner is held liable for causing any bite injuries on public property.

The liability in a dog bite injury case comes from one of two possible grounds. If the owner was aware that the dog was dangerous and did nothing to stop it from biting, that is a form of negligence. The dog's owner faces strict liability for knowing about their dog being dangerous. A second way to claim dog bite injury due to negligence (41-4-6 NMSA 1978) is when the dog's owner was unaware of the dog's viciousness but failed to properly restrain the dog in a scenario during which it was reasonable that the dog would bite either a person or another person’s pet.

Another liable party is the property owner or landlord. An example of liability, in this case, is when the landlord failed to repair a fence or gate that would have prevented the dog attack. Another is when the dog attack occurred in a common area of the landlord's property, such as a hallway.

What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Claim for a Dog Bite in New Mexico?

As with any other type of personal injury claim, a dog bite claim has a statute of limitations. The dog bite victim has the best chance of success and receiving full financial compensation when filing right after a recent dog attack.

However, the dog bite victim can still seek damages if the bite occurred within three years or less of the filing date. More time is allowed for dog bite victims if they were under the age of 18 at the time of the attack.

Will a Dog Be Euthanized for Attacking Someone in New Mexico?

Because there are no dog bite laws in New Mexico except for the "one bite" rule, a dog that bites someone will never be automatically euthanized. For a dog to be euthanized, the following must occur:

  • The dog has bitten no fewer than two people or one person in two separate incidents. Should the victim receive more than one bite in a single attack, it counts only as a single bite.
  • The dog caused serious injury or death to the victims, or the dog has been specifically raised to attack people.
  • There must be a court hearing for the dog bite claim.

Unprovoked attacks could indicate that the dog has rabies. In such a case, the injured person is tested for rabies. The dog may or may not be obviously rabid, and testing for rabies can only be done post-mortem. If the dog is reasonably assumed to have rabies, it must be euthanized.

Does Homeowners Insurance Pay for Dog Bite Injuries?

Typically, homeowners insurance or renters insurance covers the liability expenses in a dog bite injury claim. The insurance company of the dog owner takes responsibility up to the liability limits of the homeowners insurance or renters insurance.

Full financial compensation is available for past, ongoing, and known future medical bills. Homeowners insurance can also cover expenses for psychological counseling, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

That is why it’s so important to speak with a dog bite lawyer in New Mexico if you or someone you love has suffered an injury from a dog bite. Make sure you protect your rights from the start of the incident. We can answer your questions and offer free consultation to discuss the specific aspects of your case.  

Financial Compensation Available for a Dog Bite Injury Claim

All dog bite victims with valid dog bite claims are entitled to financial compensation for the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Psychological counseling
  • Loss of income
  • Pain and suffering

A dog bite lawsuit or another personal injury lawsuit will require a thorough review of all medical records and expenses resulting from the attack. Once the claim is filed, there will be a negotiation process with the insurance company of the dog owner and all liable parties until a settlement is reached. 

If you are experiencing difficulty in dealing with the insurance company, a free consultation can get your questions answered and put you on a path to justice.

Contact Our New Mexico Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Today

Approximately 1 in 5 people who have been bitten by dogs require medical attention. Dogs are supposed to be man's best friend, but they are not immune from attacking people or other pets. 

In our over four decades of personal injury law experience, we have a more than 90% success rate.  Our goal is to provide all accident victims and their loved ones with excellent legal representation at a fair price. We are available to discuss injuries and help determine if you have the right to pursue a claim for compensation for your injuries and losses.  Call today to schedule a free consultation with a skilled member of our team.

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