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What You Should Know About New Mexico’s Dog Bite Laws

dog after dog bite accident

If you have a dog bite case in New Mexico, you might be surprised to learn that the state does not have a detailed law on this subject. This does not mean you can not win a dog bite case in New Mexico! It is still entirely possible to hold a negligible owner accountable and receive a settlement.

dog after dog bite accident Image by Canva.com

If you are the victim of a dog bite in New Mexico, this review will cover the basics you need to know:

  • New Mexico dog bite precedents
  • Potential settlement from a dog bite injury
  • How to prepare a winning case
  • What to expect throughout your dog bite case in New Mexico

Although New Mexico does not have a written statute on dog bite liability, there is a uniform jury instruction.

Dog Bite Liability in New Mexico

A uniform jury instruction is a standard instruction given to a jury to help them reach a decision about a case. New Mexico’s uniform jury instruction for dog bite liability states that a dog’s owner is liable for damages if the owner had reason to know the dog might be vicious. However, there are limits to this liability if the following are true:

  • The injured person purposely excited the dog.
  • The injured person knew the dog was vicious.
  • The injured person put themselves in the dog’s way on purpose and without reason.

This jury instruction outlines what each party must prove to win a New Mexico dog bite case.

New Mexico Dog Bite Injury Case Examples

It also helps to have deep knowledge about previous dog bite cases in the state. The following cases are common examples used to show New Mexico dog bite liability precedents:

  • Perkins v. Drury (1953) – The court finds that an owner’s frequent warnings about the dog demonstrate knowledge of the dog’s violent nature.
  • Mallard v. Zink (1979) – The owner, or at least one co-owner, must have proven knowledge of the dog’s vicious behavior.
  • Smith v. Village of Ruidoso (1999) – If an owner knows the dog is dangerous, they are not only negligent, but strictly liable to the victim.
  • Ortiz v. Johnson (2013) – The court finds that a landlord may only be held responsible for a tenant’s dog under specific circumstances.

Experienced dog bite attorneys in New Mexico know how to reference these relevant precedents and more to support the injured person’s case.

How Much Can You Win for a Dog Bite Case in New Mexico?

The average dog bite settlement in New Mexico is just over $40,000. In some cases, the settlement is much larger. In 2019, the city of Albuquerque paid a man $390,000 to settle his claim after an Albuquerque Police Department dog mauled him. The size of the settlement depends largely on the facts of the case, the severity of the damage, and the skill of the attorney.

How to Win a Dog Bite Case in New Mexico

Based on the uniform jury instruction and established precedent, an injured person must demonstrate the owner’s liability or negligence. In other words, can we prove to the jury that the owner knew the dog might have vicious tendencies? At the same time, the victim must prove they did not purposely excite the dog, get in the dog’s way without reason, or have reason to believe the dog might act viciously.

With that in mind, here are six steps to prepare a successful case based on the uniform dog bite liability instructions in New Mexico:

1.) Gather the Facts as Soon as Possible

As soon as everyone is safe, try to recreate the scene with pictures, video, and notes. It might help to call an investigator to the scene. Document your account of what happened while it is still fresh in your memory. It is especially important to gather details carefully when dogs bite children.

If the dog’s owner is willing to talk to you, you can see if they agree with you about everything that happened. Specifically, do they remember the facts of what happened the same way you do? If nothing else, get the owner’s information so you know who they are and how to reach them. To win your settlement, you must know who the defendant is.

2.) Decide if You Need Expert Analysis

In some cases, the dog’s owner and the dog bite victim will tell different versions of the story. The owner may claim another dog is responsible, the injured person caused the attack, or the incident happened in a different way. In these cases, a dog bite expert or investigator can help confirm who is telling the truth.

dog after dog bite accident Image by Canva.com

3.) Learn About the Dog’s History

Talking to neighbors and checking with local authorities can help establish whether the owner had reason to know about the dog’s violent tendencies. Local animal control, the humane society, and police keep records of incidents like dog attacks and leash law violations. Sometimes, the owner might even tell you if they have ever worried about the dog’s violence.

4.) Keep Your Medical Records

If the victim’s injuries require medical attention, keep detailed records. Pictures of the injuries, medical documents, and a list of medical expenses will come in handy. If the injury might cause additional medical expenses in the future, those are worth listing. Reports from medical professionals can help the court determine how severe the injuries are, and if there are damages beyond physical injuries.

5.) Prepare and File Paperwork

Gather everything you can related to the attack: photos of injuries, medical records, written descriptions of the incident, and so on. File a civil case. Submit your paperwork to the insurance adjuster and the defense attorney. Clear communication and a thorough understanding of personal injury claims help the case move more quickly.

6.) Hire a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Case in New Mexico

Simply put, you will have a better chance of winning a large settlement with an attorney than you do alone. Your personal injury attorney can help with jury selection, case preparation, and the presentation of persuasive claims.

Successful Personal Injury Attorney for a Dog Bite Case in Las Cruces

Navigating the dog bite laws in New Mexico is overwhelming for many victims of dog bites. There are many precedents to know, and winning a dog bite case in this state often requires some level of expertise. Kane Personal Injury offers experienced dog bite attorneys in Las Cruces, NM. To get help with your case as soon as possible, and to maximize your compensation, contact our office today.