A dog attack is one of the most unpredictable injuries that can happen to anyone. No one is immune to dog attacks. While we can try to prevent them as much as possible, most animal attacks are not expected; no one ever expects that their sweet, loving pet could cause anyone injuries., and you typically don’t expect someone else’s friendly dog to cause you injuries.
If your dog bit someone on your property, it is important to know your rights. What happens if your dog bit someone who was trespassing on your property? What if your dog has a history of attacking and biting people? The answer will always depend on the state you’re located in, but the same general rules can apply in many circumstances. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact Morgan & Morgan. We can help you with your next steps. We have been handling dog bite cases for decades and are here to help. Contact Morgan & Morgan today to set up a free consultation.
State Dog Bite Laws
The laws of dog bites vary depending on which state you’re located in. While some states operate on strict liability, others operate on the “one bite” rule. Further, some states allow you to bring a personal injury claim for any type of dog injury based on a negligence framework.
The “One Bite” Rule
Under the “one bite” rule, an owner is only liable the first time a dog bites someone if they knew or should have known that the dog might act in a dangerous manner and was prone to biting. If the dog has never bitten someone before and the dog wasn’t dangerous in any way, the first bite is a “free bite,” and the owner won’t be held liable in most circumstances. After the first bite occurs, it essentially puts the owner on notice of the dog’s propensity to attack and bite. If the dog bites a second time, the owner will be held liable.
To hold someone liable under the “one bite” rule, the following must be proven:
- The dog had a propensity to act in a dangerous manner
- The owner knew or should have known of these propensities
- The animal’s dangerous propensity — attack or bite — caused damage to another person
Defending Knowledge of Dangerous Propensity
As an owner whose dog bites someone, the plaintiff will be trying to prove that you knew or should have known of your dog’s propensity to act in a dangerous way. Your job, then, is to defend that and show that you didn’t know this and had no reason to know this.
Some ways to defend this include the fact that the dog has never bitten anyone before, it isn’t used, kept, or trained as an attack or guard dog, and it is not of a breed that is considered to be dangerous.
You could have friends, family members, and neighbors testify to the fact that your dog has never bitten anyone or shown any aggressive tendencies before, which would help defend the fact that you didn’t know and shouldn’t have known that your dog might bite someone.
Strict Liability for Dog Bites
Strict liability applies for dog bites in many states. As opposed to having to show that the dog has bitten someone before or that the dog has a propensity to be dangerous, strict liability simply means that the owner is liable the first time the dog bites someone no matter what. It doesn’t matter that the dog was never dangerous before, has never bitten anyone before, and that the owner couldn’t have done anything to prevent the bite. No matter how careful the owner was, they can still be held strictly liable for that first bite.
There are some exceptions to strict liability, depending on which state you’re located in. Typically, the owner will not be held liable even in a strict liability state in the following situations:
- The person bit was trespassing
- The injured person provoked the dog
- The dog was performing its duties as a police or military dog
Consequences of Dog Bites
Another question that is not uncommon is regarding what happens to a dog after it bites someone and the owner is found liable. As the injured party, this is of great concern. As the owner of the dog, this is also of great concern. Will your dog have to be given up? Will it be euthanized? This is a significant worry for everyone involved.
The answer to this question depends again on the state. In some states, nothing happens, though the victim can certainly file a personal injury claim against you. In other states, your dog may have to be quarantined for a certain period of time. In other areas, your dog may be taken away from you or euthanized. Sometimes, you may just have to put a beware of dog sign out front. If you live in certain parts of the country, you may actually be required to move to a different area if you want to keep the dog. This is a question for a lawyer, as it is very location dependent.
If your dog bit someone on your property and they filed a personal injury claim against you, you could have to compensate them for any injuries and harm they suffered. The most common examples of damages that could be paid out in a personal injury lawsuit include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Plastic surgery
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Future lost wages
- Lost earning capacity