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Legal Responses When a Pet Is Injured

Legal Responses When a Pet Is Injured
One side of pet ownership that many people don’t consider when they adopt a cat or dog is the possibility that the pet will need expensive medical care during its life. Especially hard to foresee are injuries caused by someone else’s wrongful action, such as failing to control an unsafe animal or committing a deliberate act of malice. When a pet is seriously injured, filing a lawsuit to recover compensation for the resulting costs may be warranted, but bear in mind that there are limits to what a plaintiff can recover in such cases.

Nevada’s pet injury law

Nevada law provides that someone who intentionally, willfully, recklessly, or negligently injures or kills another person’s domesticated dog or cat can be held liable only for specific types of damages. Damages that are available include medical costs associated with the injury, compensation for any loss in the pet’s fair market value, and reasonable attorney’s fees. Punitive damages, such as might be available against someone who has acted especially badly, are not permitted. Nor are noneconomic damages like pain and suffering. The total compensation anyone can receive in such cases is $5,000. NRS 41.740. Owners of pets that are especially valuable should consider insuring them, both to cover the cost of vet bills and to ensure that the owner’s investment is not suddenly lost. There are several components of NRS 41.740 that are worth keeping in mind. First, it applies only to dogs and cats, and then only those animals that are “maintained in or near the household.” It does not apply to exotic pets or horses. Second, it sets a distinct limit on how much a person can recover, which in cases of valuable pets can leave an owner less than financially whole. Third, the law provides exceptions for injuries to pets in certain circumstances: government actions in defense of public health or animal welfare, actions taken to protect livestock, and actions taken in defense of oneself or another person.

Exploring other causes of action for pet injuries

Despite the limitations on how much a plaintiff can seek in compensation for the injury to the pet itself, plaintiffs may have other causes of action that warrant consideration. For example, if the defendant injured the plaintiff’s pet because the defendant knew that it would cause the plaintiff emotional harm, the plaintiff may have a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Generally speaking such a cause of action requires more than just feeling sad about the loss of a beloved pet: the plaintiff must have suffered a sufficiently severe reaction to warrant compensation. Nevada provides additional protections for service animals. NRS 426.810 provides that the owner of a dog or other animal who allows their pet to injure or kill a service animal is guilty of a misdemeanor. Once convicted, a defendant in such a case must compensate the owner of the service animal for vet bills, replacement cost of the service animal, and other costs incurred by the owner as a consequence of losing the service animal’s help. For example, if the owner had to hire a person to provide the help that the service animal provided, the helper’s salary will be the defendant’s responsibility.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

For over 45 years the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have questions about pursuing a lawsuit following an injury to your pet call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.

Understanding Your Legal Options if You Are Injured By a Service Animal

Understanding Your Legal Options if You Are Injured By a Service Animal

Nevada law grants certain rights to people with service animals

Nevada law defines “service animal” to include dogs and miniature horses that have “been trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” NRS 426.097. The applicable definition under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is similar, though it is limited to dogs. 28 CFR §36.104. The definition of “disability” is quite broad, including “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the person . . . a record of such an impairment . . . or being regarded as having such an impairment.” 28 CFR §36.105, NRS 426.068. The definition of disability is broad enough to encompass psychological conditions like severe depression or anxiety, provided that they meet the definition’s impact test. Under both Nevada law and the ADA, people who use service animals have the right to take their animals into “places of public accommodation,” another term with a broad definition. The ADA defines to include hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and other entertainment venues, libraries, schools, and gyms. See 28 CFR §36.104 for the complete definition. Owners and operators of covered places are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, including allowing them to bring service animals onto the premises. They may ask what jobs the animal performs, but they may not ask a service animal’s handler to identify his or her disability, ask for evidence of disabled status, or demand proof that the animal has been trained. However, an establishment can refuse to allow a dangerous animal on the premises if, for example, the animal is behaving aggressively toward other patrons. Animals that aren’t under adequate control can also be removed. Note that to qualify as a service animal, and therefore receive the rights associated with that designation, a dog must have received special training to assist a person with specific tasks associated with a disability. This distinguishes service animals from therapy animals. Although therapy animals provide emotional benefits, they don’t satisfy the task requirement. This means that a therapy animal can be lawfully excluded from places of public accommodation, though landlords cannot discriminate against therapy animals any more than they can against service animals, even if they have a policy against pets.

Legal options when a service animal bites

In most ways, a service animal bite injury falls within the same framework as one committed by an ordinary pet. In Nevada, dog bites fall within the general legal theory of negligence. Harry v. Smith, 893 P.2d 372, 375 (Nev. 1995). The injured plaintiff must show that the person responsible for the animal failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the injury, and as a result of that failure the plaintiff was injured. What may distinguish a service animal bite case from ordinary bite cases is the context where a bite occurs. Because service animals are allowed into places where animals normally aren’t permitted, the scope of potentially negligent defendants can be different. For example, although a restaurant is required to allow patrons to be accompanied by service animals, if it does not exercise its right to have an aggressive animal removed it may contribute to the resulting injury.

Consult with an experienced dog bite attorney

Recovering from an animal bite can be painful, slow, and expensive, especially if it requires taking time off work. Many bite victims need psychological counseling along with their physical treatment. Consulting with an injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident is essential for preserving legal options. The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have extensive experience with animal bite litigation in Las Vegas. For a free consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.