Strict Liability in New Mexico Dog Bite Cases

Dog bites and attacks can be truly traumatizing. The long-term effects of a New Mexico dog attack can include psychological, physical, and emotional damage. Managing oneself after a dog bite can be difficult because the victim may need to deal with severe physical damage, including scarring and surgery, and psychological issues. In addition, a victim may need therapy or psychiatric treatment for the trauma sustained. This can consume a large amount of time, money, and energy. Insurance companies may willingly cover some medical bills, but that is not guaranteed, and initial insurance settlements rarely cover the extent of the damages that a victim sustained.

State Supreme Court Finds that Strict Liability Should be Imposed in Dog Bite Cases

Recently, a court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that illustrates an issue that commonly arises in New Mexico dog bite cases. In 2009, a woman and her boyfriend were squirrel hunting on a property owned by the woman’s boyfriend. The woman decided to leave early and proceeded to walk to her car through a tract of property owned by the defendant.

As she was walking, she was attacked by several dogs owned by the defendant. She suffered a series of substantial injuries, including severe bites and bruises. Luckily, a motorist saw the attack as he was driving by and was able to help the plaintiff. She did, however, suffer serious injuries as a result of the attack.

The woman filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the owner was strictly liable for her injuries. However, the jury was instructed that the defendant would have to have reason to believe that the plaintiff would be in the vicinity of his dogs. The jury ruled that the defendant was the owner of the dogs but that he was not liable because he did not have a reason to believe that the plaintiff would be near his dogs.

The plaintiff appealed the jury’s decision, arguing that the jury instruction was improper. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision, and the plaintiff again appealed to the state’s high court.

The state supreme court examined the strict liability statute, which states that in a dog bite case, the owner “shall be responsible for that damage, and shall be liable for all damages.” This reading ultimately resulted in the defendant being responsible for the injuries caused by his dogs.

New Mexico Dog Bite Law

New Mexico does not have a specific dog bite statute, but there are various ways for a plaintiff to recover damages. First, they can recover under strict liability if the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a tendency to be or was vicious. In these situations, a plaintiff will not be successful if they knew the dog was vicious and provoked the dog. Additionally, a New Mexico dog bite victim can file a lawsuit under a traditional theory of negligence.

Have You or a Loved One Been Injured by a Dog Bite in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a New Mexico dog attack or bite, you should contact the lawyers at the Fine Law Firm. There are alternative avenues for recovery in these cases, and it is important that you understand which theory to use as the basis for your lawsuit. An attorney can assist you in determining your rights and remedies and seeking the compensation you deserve. Contact one of the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Issues Opinion in Spa Injury Case, Siding with Plaintiff, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 20, 2017.

New Mexico Circuit Court Finds Mountain Resort Waiver of Liability Valid in Negligence Lawsuit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 5, 2018.