Owner Liability under Dog Bite Laws

Dog bite laws in the US are well-developed, and specific states have their own interpretation of the liability of owners for injuries caused by a pet dog. In a majority of state laws, however, the strict liability doctrine is in place. This means that even if the dog has no previous history of attacking and the owner would not expect anything untoward happening, the owner is still held responsible for damages if the dog does attack.

Some states also have laws that specify only injuries resulting from bites and nothing else, while others will consider liability as long as injury resulted and the dog caused it. In some states, the dog only has to bite once, even if no direct injury occurred. According to the website of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ®, liability applies even if the dog does not cause any injury at all but scared the claimant so that injury occurred i.e. tripped and broke a leg.

A pet owner can also still be held responsible even if in trying to prevent a dog attack, the owner sustains more serious injuries than the victim.  Still others specify that the law only applies if the dog was not on the owner’s premises or “at large.” Most states qualify a dog attack that was “unprovoked” i.e. the victim was not teasing the dog or trespassing.

In general, however, all dog bite laws require that a person suing for compensation should be able to show proof that:

  • A dog was responsible for the attack and/or injury
  • The defendant is the dog’s registered owner
  • There was no provocation of any type offered the dog by the claimant
  • The claimant was not trespassing and acting in a peaceable manner

Like with any other law, dog bite laws are open to interpretation. If you have been attacked by a dog, you need to know what the dog bite law in your state says are your legal options. Find out by consulting with a competent lawyer specializing in dog bite and personal injury cases.

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