Dog BitesDog Bite Laws: Understanding Liability and Rights

April 1, 20240

Dogs are often seen as humans’ closest companions. However, when a dog bite occurs, it not only leads to distress for the victim, but serious injuries are possible. The dog owner may also end up facing legal consequences. In the US, each state has its own dog bite laws. However, dog owners are generally held responsible for what their pets do. In this article, we’ll explain dog bite laws, victim’s rights, and what you should do if you’ve been bitten.

Strict Liability vs. One Bite Rule

In most states, dog owners are subject to strict liability laws. This means they are responsible for any injuries that their dogs cause, regardless of whether the owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive behavior or if the owner was negligent in preventing the bite. Even if a dog has never bitten anyone before, the owner can still be held liable for the first bite.

However, some states follow the “one bite rule.” This gives dog owners some leniency for the first bite incident. Under this rule, the victim must prove that the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s dangerous propensities before the bite occurred. If the victim can demonstrate this, the owner can be held liable for the damages.

Proving Liability in Dog Bite Cases

To prove liability in a dog bite case, the victim must typically demonstrate that:

  1. The defendant owned the dog
  2. The dog bit the victim
  3. The victim was in a public place or lawfully on private property when the bite occurred
  4. The victim did not provoke the dog

In some cases, the dog owner may argue that the victim provoked the dog. Or they may say the victim was trespassing on private property. These factors can impact the outcome of the case and how liable the owner is.

Damages in Dog Bite Cases

Dog bite victims may be entitled to damages. What they receive depends on the extent of the injury and what happened leading up to the incident. Some common types of damages include:

  1. Medical expenses: This includes costs related to emergency room visits, hospitalization, surgery, medication, and ongoing medical treatment.
  2. Lost wages: If the victim is unable to work due to the injury, they may be entitled to compensation for lost wages.
  3. Pain and suffering: This includes physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish resulting from the dog bite.
  4. Scarring and disfigurement: If the bite causes permanent scarring or disfigurement, the victim may be entitled to additional compensation.
  5. Punitive damages: In rare cases involving extreme negligence or intentional misconduct, the court may award punitive damages to punish the dog owner and deter future misconduct.

Homeowner’s Insurance and Dog Bite Coverage

Many homeowner’s insurance policies provide coverage for dog bite incidents. However, the extent of coverage can vary. Some policies may exclude certain dog breeds. Others require additional coverage for dogs with a history of aggression. It’s essential for dog owners to review their insurance policies. This way they can ensure they have adequate coverage in case of a dog bite incident.

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims

Each state has a statute of limitations that sets a time limit for filing a dog bite claim. In most states, the statute of limitations ranges from one to six years from the date of the incident. It’s crucial for dog bite victims to be aware of their state’s statute of limitations. You must file a claim within the designated timeframe or you will lose your right to seek compensation.

Steps to Take After a Dog Bite Incident

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, it’s essential to take the following steps:

  1. Seek medical attention: Even if the bite seems minor, it’s crucial to have the wound examined by a medical professional to prevent infection and ensure proper treatment.
  2. Report the incident: Contact your local animal control agency or police department to report the dog bite. This helps create an official record of the incident and can be used as evidence in a legal claim.
  3. Gather information: Obtain the dog owner’s contact information, insurance details, and any witness statements or photographs of the scene.
  4. Document the injury: Keep a record of all medical treatment, expenses, and correspondence related to the dog bite incident.
  5. Contact an experienced dog bite attorney: An attorney who specializes in dog bite cases can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and seek fair compensation for your injuries.

Preventing Dog Bites

As a dog owner, taking steps to prevent dog bites and promote responsible pet ownership is important. Some strategies for doing this include:

  1. Socialization and training: Ensure your dog is properly socialized and trained to interact appropriately with people and other animals.
  2. Supervision: Always supervise your dog when around others, especially children, and never leave your dog unattended in public spaces.
  3. Leashing: Keep your dog on a leash when in public areas and obey local leash laws.
  4. Secure fencing: Ensure your yard has secure fencing to prevent your dog from escaping and potentially biting someone.
  5. Warning signs: If your dog has a history of aggression or is prone to biting, consider posting warning signs on your property to alert others.

Dog bite laws are designed to hold dog owners accountable. They also help protect victims and cover the costs they have endured. By understanding the legal steps involved, both victims and dog owners can understand what to do. Hopefully, you are now better prepared to navigate the legal process and seek a fair outcome.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a dog bite, it’s vital to speak to a dog bite attorney. At Cassisi Law Firm, our knowledgeable team is dedicated to helping dog bite victims understand their rights. We can help you seek the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today for a free consultation on (718) 441-5050.

Or visit our office at 10208 101st Ave Ozone Park, NY 11416.