Understanding Strict Liability And One Bite Laws If You Are Injured By A Dog

Posted on: 8 December 2015

If you are injured by a neighbor or a stranger's dog, then you may want to sue the dog owner for the medical bills that accrued due to the injury. Thankfully, almost all states in the United States have laws that indicate that the dog owner is liable for these injuries. This means that you may receive some sort of settlement fairly easily. However, you should understand that states will generally have either strict liability or one bite rules when it comes to injuries from dogs. Keep reading to understand what these laws are and what they mean for a potential settlement.

Strict Liability

If you live in a state with strict liability dog bite laws, then the owner of the dog is liable for the actions of his or her dog. You do not need to prove that the dog did anything wrong. Basically, this law states that the dog owner should have been aware of a possibly dangerous situation merely by owning the dog. In other words, the dog owner should have known that their dog could cause an injury and precautions should have been taken to prevent an incident, regardless of any previous signs of aggression. 

However, you should know that this liability may be negated if you did something wrong during the encounter with the dog. You may need to prove in court that you did not provoke the dog in any way. For example, if you attempted to play with a stranger's dog or you yelled at it and you were bitten in the process, then this may be seen as a provocation. You will also need to prove that you were acting in a relatively peaceful manner and that the dog bite occurred in a public area, on your property, or in the dog owner's home after being invited into the house. Others situations may apply, but if you unlawfully entered a property and came across the dog, then the owner may not be liable. For example, if you decided to take a shortcut through your neighborhood by hopping your neighbor's fence and walking through the yard and the dog bit you, the owner would not be liable due to the fact that you were trespassing.

Finally, you also must prove that the person you are suing is in fact the owner of the dog. An individual may act carelessly while they are dog sitting, but this person is not liable for injuries, so they cannot be sued. The owner is instead responsible, so make sure that you are well aware of who owns the dog before filing paperwork with the court. There may be some other types of situations that may reduce or eliminate the dog owner's liability, so make sure to speak to your lawyer about this. 

Injury Types

You should also understand that some states only extend liability to the dog owner if a bite occurred and no other injury. This may mean that you will need to pay for your own medical bills if you were injured while the dog was chasing you or if the canine caused a deep wound by scratching you.

One Bite

If you do not live in a strict liability dog injury state, then you likely live in a one bite state instead. These states only place liability on the dog owner if he or she was provided with evidence that their dog is dangerous. In other words, the owner of the dog should have taken measures to reduce injuries, since the dog had already shown that it had a tendency to act aggressively. Usually, this aggression or evidence will be from a previous bite or bite attempt.  

In a one bite state, you will need to prove that the dog had previously bitten another person in addition to the other criteria that you did not provoke the dog or do something else wrong when you were injured. Usually, your lawyer will need to provide paperwork to the court in the form of a police report or a former lawsuit to prove that a previous incident occurred. 

For more information about how to proceed with a dog bite case, contact a firm like Trammell & Mills Law Firm LLC.