Who Is to Blame in a Dog Bite Case?
“Man’s best friend” can inflict terrible damage to you or your loved one through a bite or attack. Depending on the size and type of dog, even the dog’s action in jumping on you or your child may result in broken bones or other fall-related injuries. Statistically speaking, dog bites and attacks often result in injuries to the face and extremities. meaning that there is a high probability that such an incident can leave you with scars and other disfiguring injuries.
Does a Dog Get “One Free Bite”?
Each state takes one of two approaches toward injury lawsuits that are filed due to a dog bite. Some states give dogs “one free bite” and do not impose liability on a dog’s owner unless the owner knew or had reason to know that the dog had vicious or violent tendencies toward humans. Except in the cases of dog breeds known and bred specifically for their aggressiveness, dog owners typically do not learn of their pet’s aggressive tendencies until after the dog has attacked an individual in at least one instance. After such an attack, the dog’s owner is considered to be on notice that the dog has violent characteristics, and the owner must therefore take all reasonable measures available to prevent the dog from attacking others.
In other states, a dog owner is held “strictly liable” for any injuries that their dog causes to others. In these states, an owner does not need to know or have any reason to know of their canine’s violent tendencies. In other words, in these states a dog owner may be held responsible for any injuries caused by the dog, even if the dog had never attacked anyone previously or the dog was not of a breed known for viciousness.
A Dog or a Dog’s Owner Are Not Always at Fault
Even in states that impose strict liability on a dog owner, there are limits to the owner’s liability. For example, an owner may not be liable for a victim’s injuries if that victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property. Similarly, some states do not impose liability on a dog owner for a dog bite or attack if the victim antagonized, harassed, or instigated the attack. A dog owner in these states may be able to defeat a dog bite lawsuit and avoid paying for a victim’s fees by presenting evidence or testimony proving the dog bite victim behaved in such a manner.
What If I Don’t Know the Owner of a Vicious Dog?
In order to succeed in a dog bite lawsuit, the dog bite victim must be able to identify the owner of the dog that attacked you. If you cannot identify the owner of the dog, the court cannot enter any order directing a specific individual to pay you compensation for your injuries and losses. You and your attorney may be able to identify the dog’s owner or caretaker by:
- Speaking with neighbors and others in the area where the attack took place;
- Talking with animal control officers, veterinarians, and others who may know of a person who has reported their dog missing; or
- If the animal can be safely restrained, asking animal control officers to check for dog tags or a microchip identifying the owner of the dog.
Assisting You with Your Dog Bite Injury Case