Owner Liability For Dog Bites

Every year in the United States, there are nearly five million animal attacks. These attacks , which are mostly dog bites but which can also include bites, scratches or other attacks by farm animals or domestic pets, can range in severity from minor to severe. The most severe animal attacks can even result in death, whether from the injury that the animal inflicts or from complications such as a bacterial infection. While death occurs in less than 100 of the reported dog bites or attacks that occur across America annually, dog bites that require hospitalization are common.

When a dog bites, the very first thing that owner and the injured party should assess is liability. Owner liability in a dog bite case is governed by laws which vary from one state to another. However, there are some key points that courts in most states tend to use to determine fault in these cases.

The first is either a primary or secondary law in every state. It is often called the standard rule of negligence. According to this law, if the owner knew of the animal's potential for danger, then that owner is liable for damages caused by the dog bite. In some states, the breed of the dog, and the owner's knowledge of that breed, can satisfy the standard rule of liability. In others, the owners knowledge of the dog's tendencies and disposition, as well as previous acts of aggression all factor into assessing owner liability under this statute. This has to be proven. If proven, the victim is able to recover medical costs and damages for pain, mental anxiety, and permanent scarring, and also punitive damages. The law allows for these damages to punish the owner for allowing the situation to take place. The owner is then liable for damages, no matter what the circumstance surrounding the bite. The premise is that the owner should have controlled a dog that was known to be dangerous.

A few states have what is called the strict liability statute. The only proof needed in strict liability case is that which connect the dog and owner. No other circumstances, including trespassing and provocation, are of importance under this statute. The victim need only to prove which dog did the biting. Trespassing and provocation, however, are factors in deciding the award in some states, since both negate the damage award.

Many states have a One Bite law, meaning an owner is not liable for injuries caused by a dog's first bite. Even if the dog's owner knew or believed that your dog had dangerous propensity, they cannot be held liable under the one-bite rule.

There are a few states that do not have specific laws for determining liability in a dog bite case. In these states, the burden of proof is on the injured party. They must prove that dog bite was unprovoked, and that the owner had previous knowledge of the dog's propensity for aggression. In some places, the injured party cannot cite previous bite incidents as a cause for liability. Trespassing weighs heavily in these cases, as well as biting that takes place off the dog owner's property. If the victim of a dog attack had been trespassing or committing a criminal offense at the time of the attack, then there can be no suit. Also, there can be no recovery if the dog was being teased or tormented by the victim at the time of the attack.

A personal injury attorney will be well read on the subject of owner liability in a dog bite case. For the injured, these attorneys work on a contingency basis. Whatever the case, consult an attorney to ensure that your rights as the owner or the injured are protected in a dog bite case.


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