Dog Bites: Legal FAQ
When Does A Dog Bite Constitute A Personal Injury Claim?
A dog bite can result in a personal injury claim when the victim can show at least two things have occurred:
- The dog's owner's actions or negligence were the cause of the dog bite, and
- The dog bite resulted in quantifiable injuries to the victim
If you were the victim of a dog bite that resulted in injuries you likely have a personal injury claim against the dog owner. The dog owner will be responsible for various costs including your medical bills, time missed from work, and emotional distress.
One note, in some jurisdictions you may have to have actual physical damages in order to bring a dog bite lawsuit. Mere emotional injuries, or injuries resulting from being scared by a dog may not be sufficient to file a claim.
How Can It Be Determined Whether A Dog Handlers Actions Were Negligent?
Whether a dog owner was negligent in their control of their dog will depend on the facts of the case. Negligence is usually defined as an unreasonable action, or unreasonable omission to take action or give a warning.
An example of an unreasonable action would be a dog owner letting go of the dog's leash when another dog approaches. An unreasonable omission might be the failure to keep a dog away from guests, where the dog is known to play too roughly and knock people down.
The negligent act or omission must be the proximate cause of the losses. This means the harmful result must be closely related to the negligent act or omission.
What If the State Where The Dog Bite Occurred is a "One-Bite State?"
The rationale behind the "one bite rule" is that domestic animals by definition are not injurious, and therefore liability could be predicated only on the defendant's knowledge that a particular domestic animal had a propensity to behave in a manner that was injurious to humans. The "one bite states" generally hold that:
- A dog owner will not be held liable for the dog's first bite, unless the dog owner himself caused the bite through negligent, reckless or intentional conduct, or by negligence per se (i.e., the injury was caused by a violation of a leash law, prohibition against dogs going "at large," or prohibition against dogs trespassing).
- On the other hand, the owner will be liable for all bites after the first one.
What if the Dog Owner was not Present when the Dog Bite Occurred?
Sometimes a victim can recover compensation from people who, at first glance, might appear to have little to do with the dog. For example, a landlord might be liable if he knows that a tenant keeps a dog that bites people, provided that the landlord has the legal power to get rid of the tenant.
Should I hire a personal injury attorney with dog bite case experience?
A personal injury lawsuit can be extremely complex. Witnesses may be called to testify about your injury or the circumstances that caused it. Records may require examination. Expert witnesses may be required. Personal injury cases require careful attention to detail. Resolving injury cases can require documentation, red tape, and a great deal of time. Hiring an attorney with experience in personal injury law is vital in order to protect your legal rights. If you intend to recover damages from a company or other organization, it’s a sure bet that they will have legal counsel on their side. Get a free consultation with an experienced dog bite attorney in your area.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.