Every year in the U.S., man’s best friend bites over 4 million people. Most dog bite victims are small children, and one in five of those victims will need medical attention. A dog bite can cause severe pain, infection, scarring, and psychological trauma. Plus, medical bills and lost wages resulting from a dog bite can quickly add up. It’s important to know your rights if you’re the victim of a dog bite attack.
How are negligence and liability determined in dog bite cases?
Dog bite laws are governed via common law, and also through state personal injury statutes. In essence, a dog bite law will vary depending on which state the attack occurred in.
Does every dog get a free bite?
Dog bite laws that fall under common law governance mean that the dog gets to bite someone once and the owner isn’t liable. Under one bite laws, victim of a dog bite has to prove either one of two things to hold a dog owner accountable for damages:
- The dog bit someone before or was otherwise aggressive with people
- The owner knew that the dog tended to bite
If either of these two conditions is met, then the dog owner or the dog’s handler is considered negligent.
When it comes to states that have one dog bite laws on the books, it can be difficult for a dog bite victim to prove that the owner was negligent. It’s important to contact a Houston dog bite lawyer if your state uses common law to determine liability for dog bite injuries.
Other states may use personal injury statutes for dog bite laws. Personal injury cases are determined based on the outcomes of similar cases in the past.
What is a breach of duty?
Another facet of dog bite laws is the concept of ‘breach of duty.’ For a dog bite victim to recover damages, they have to prove that the dog owner or handler owed them a legal duty and that the injury arose because of a breach of that duty. Some breach of duty examples include:
- Failing to properly secure the dog behind a fence or in a crate
- Failing to leash the dog
- Entrusting someone who is unfit to restrain the animal
- The owner did not muzzle the animal if muzzling is part of a mandatory local ordinance
Owners who keep dogs with the knowledge that the animal is aggressive and they fail to protect others from the animal are negligent by default. A judge will often consider the following factors when determining the outcome of a dog bite case:
- Was the dog doing something considered dangerous under the law?
- Did the dog show a pattern of aggressive behavior?
- Did the owner or handler have sufficient knowledge of the animal’s propensity for violence?
- Did the animal’s behavior harm someone?
Under most dog bite laws, legislators believe that owners should not be held liable unless they had sufficient knowledge of the animal’s propensity for viciousness.
What does strict liability mean when it comes to dog bite laws?
Some states will apply strict liability laws to a dog bite case. Some of the best dogs can even end up biting at some point. Under strict liability dog bite laws, owners are automatically liable when a dog with dangerous tendencies attacks, chases, bites, or hurts someone. The victim does not have to prove that the owner was negligent if a state uses strict liability dog bite laws. In some states, certain dog breeds are considered dangerous, even if the animal does not show a propensity toward violence. In these states, owners are held strictly liable if a dangerous dog breed bites or injures someone. Under strict liability, it doesn’t matter if the victim trespassed on the dog owner’s property either.
However, provocation will be a factor in any state if a dog bites you. If you encouraged, scared, or antagonized the dog into biting, then your case can be dismissed, or you won’t get much compensation for your injury. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, regardless of what state you’re in, you need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.