Are Dog Owners Liable for Bites?
Most dogs are amiable, loving family members, but even generally calm dogs may bite when scared or when protecting their puppies, people, or food.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs yearly, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries requiring medical attention. Over half of all dog bites take place on the dog owner’s property. In fact, dog bites account for about one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims. For more information, schedule an appointment with the Law Office of Brian P. Azemika.
Dog owners are legally obligated to keep their pets from harming people or causing property damage. Here is what you should know right away:
- When a dog injures someone, the owner may be required to compensate the injured person for medical bills, lost work time, pain and suffering, and other accident consequences. In exceptional cases, criminal charges against the dog owner are also possible.
- Even if the damage occurs off the owner’s property, the dog owner’s liability insurance (often a homeowners’ or renters’ policy) may pay the injured person’s losses.
- Following a dog bite event, both the injured person and the animal owner must take action to defend their legal rights.
Civil liability for dog bite injuries
If one (or more) of the following conditions are met, a dog owner may be held accountable in a civil lawsuit for a bite or other type of injury caused by the animal:
- A dog-bite statute is applicable.
Most states follow “strict liability dog-bite laws,” which hold owners financially accountable for dog bites (and other damages in some areas of law), regardless of the owner’s negligence or the dog’s history.
- The injured person has proof that the owner knew the dog’s tendency to cause injury.
In areas where strict liability dog-bite laws are not in force, owners may be held accountable under a theory known as the “one-bite rule,” which holds dog owners liable for injuries if they were aware or ought to be aware that their dogs were likely to injure someone.
- The injured person has proof that the harm happened due to the dog owner’s negligence.
The injured person can prove that the harm was caused by the dog owner’s negligence (legalese for “reasonably careless”) behavior, such as breaking a local leash rule or
leaving a gate open, allowing the dog to go out and bite someone.
For more information, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney today.