Dog Owner Liability
There are approximately 68 million dogs owned in the United States. Dogs are wonderful pets and provide years of fun and companionship for individuals and their families. But when a dog becomes aggressive or overly playful, serious accidents can occur and every year 4.5 million Americans are bitten by a dog. If you or someone you love was injured by a dog, it is important to understand all of your legal options.
Every state in the United States has laws that deal with dog bites. Dog owners have a responsibility to follow these laws to ensure the safety of all those in their community. If a dog owner fails to follow the laws in his state and his community, he may be held liable for any injuries or damages that have occurred as a result of his negligence.
In general there are three ways a dog owner can be held liable for his dog's actions.
Strict Liability Laws: Some states have strict liability laws which mean that dog owners are responsible for their dog's actions and for any injuries or damages. Even if the dog was restrained at the time or has never bitten anyone before, the dog owner is still liable. Unless the victim did something to provoke the attack or was trespassing at the time of the attack, a dog owner is responsible for everything.
One Bite Laws: Some states have one bite laws, which are generally in the dog owner's favor. Victims can only sue for compensation if the dog has already bitten someone else. In essence, dogs get one “free bite” before their owners are liable for injuries or damages. As long as the owner wasn't in direct violation of a local leash law or negligent in some way, he cannot be held liable unless he was aware of his dog's dangerous propensities.
Negligence: All states have laws that hold dog owners responsible for injuries that occurred because of their negligence. While there are many factors and exceptions, dog owners who act negligently are responsible for their dog's actions and victims can file a lawsuit to seek financial compensation.
In some states, a dog owner is held strictly liable ONLY if the victim suffers serious bodily injury or death. A dog does not get a “free bite” if the injury is severe enough. In addition, many cities, and counties, are beginning to enact dog breed specific laws that ban dog owners from owning certain types of dog breeds that are known to be dangerous.
If you or someone you love has suffered a dog bite injury, it is important to speak with a dog bite lawyer immediately. Dog bite injuries can be severe and can lead to a lifetime of pain and disabilities. As a result, you will need to weigh all of your legal options carefully before proceeding.