Every year in the U.S., 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs, and one in five of those people will have to see medical attention for the bite. Tragically, small children are the most likely victims of a dog attack. While most dog owners don’t think that their faithful, furry friend could injure someone, any dog can bite. If a dog is scared, sick, or provoked, they are more likely to defend themselves and hurt the person they perceive as threatening. But in some cases, the dog’s owner is simply negligent, and therefore, liable for damages.
These laws will vary by state, but here are several things you need to know about dog bite laws from a dog bite attorney, regardless of where you and the dog live.
1. How is liability established in a dog bite case?
Again, this will vary somewhat depending on which state the injury occurred. In most states, the owner must have had prior knowledge of the dog’s tendency to bite. However, several states have enacted laws that make the dog owner liable for any bite, prior knowledge notwithstanding. These states have what are called ‘strict liability’ laws. Most of the time though, the owner’s prior knowledge is the central issue in the case when establishing liability. Also, keep in mind that states with strict liability laws will waive the owner’s liability if the owner can prove that the dog was deliberately provoked.
2. What other factors are used to determine liability?
If the dog was leashed, or loose outside of the owner’s property, the owner is more likely to be found negligent.
If the dog had already bitten or attacked someone before and the owner knew about it but did not take reasonable precautions to keep other people safe from the dog, the owner is liable.
The victim was bitten because of a misleading act. For example, if a dog owner promised that the dog would be crated and kept away from visitors, but they failed to crate the dog, and someone was injured as a result.
In some rare circumstances, people who don’t own the dog can be held liable for a dog bite. This can happen in cases where the dog was left with a pet sitter, and the pet sitter did not take reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from injuring someone.
3. One-bite Laws
Some states have what are called one-bite laws on the books. For a dog that has no prior history of aggression, and the owner had no reason to believe the dog was aggressive, they could be found not liable under the one-bite law. But, the one-bite law protection is null and void if the owner had reason to believe a dog would be aggressive. Over a dozen states currently practice one-bite laws.
4. What can dog owners do to legally protect themselves from getting sued for a dog bite injury?
Dog’s are incredibly intelligent creatures with distinct personalities. It’s important that dog owners observe their dog’s behavior and do everything they can to safely and compassionately train their dog. If you notice a sudden change in your dog’s behavior or you are having a difficult time taming your dog, it’s crucial that you take precautions to keep yourself, the dog, and other people safe from an injury.
Put up signs on your property to warn people of your dog’s presence on the property.
Make sure that you have a sturdy fence for your dog. Not only will this keep other people safe, but it will also keep your dog protected from vehicles, other aggressive animals, or people who might provoke or scare him into biting.
Always have your dog on a leash when outside of your property, regardless of whether or not your state has a leash law in place.
Consider getting insurance coverage for dog bites written into your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
If your dog bites someone, the court will look into how many precautions you took to keep people safe from an injury. If you were careless in ensuring other’s safety, the law of strict liability would apply, and you could find yourself on the hook for thousands of dollars. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a personal injury lawsuit, you’ll want to hire an experienced defense attorney to protect you.