According to statistics available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), dog bites are a growing problem in the United States. Over 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each and every year, and approximately 800,000 people are bitten so severely that medical treatment is required.
However, the issue of who is at fault and who is liable for any damages sustained can be murky. Each state sets its own liability laws, and they vary widely in how liability is determined. Getting the answers a victim needs to receive compensation for damages caused by another person’s dog often requires the services of an experienced personal injury attorney. Don’t let your injury rights go ignored just because the injury was caused by a dog.
Dog Bite Liability Issues
Dog bites are so common that nearly every state has specific laws on the books regarding how they are to be handled, how to determine who is at fault and who is liable for damages. However, liability issues are usually covered by one of three types of laws: one bite laws, strict liability laws or negligence laws.
Many states determine liability through what is called the one bite law. States that use this law include Texas and Virginia. The name of the law can be misleading, but it derives from the perspective that dogs receive one free bite. In actuality, the law states that an owner is not liable if he or she did not know that the dog had a dangerous propensity to become agitated and bite people. If the dog has never bitten anyone but the owner knows that it could, then the dog does not receive one bite free of owner liability.
Another type of law governing who is liable for dog bites is known as a strict liability law. The majority of states use this law, including California and New Jersey. This type of law states that a dog’s owner is liable for nearly any type of damages caused by the dog. This applies whether the owner knew the dog was dangerous or not. In some cases, the owner may be liable even if every possible measure was taken to prevent a bite from occurring. However, a few exceptions to this law exist. For example, an owner is not usually liable if the dog bites a trespasser, a veterinarian in the course of treatment or someone who provoked the dog to attack.
The third type of law governing dog bite liability is the negligence law. States with negligence laws require that an owner acted carelessly or did not follow commonly accepted procedures to protect others from the dog. Negligence laws can be complicated and involve several extenuating factors.
Seeking Legal Help for Dog Bites
When it comes to dog bites, liability issues are much more complex than in the generalizations described above. So many factors need to be considered that it takes an experienced attorney to sort through them all. However, the good news is that most attorneys will provide a free initial consultation for dog bite victims. If the attorney believes that the victim has a case, then it will most likely be accepted on contingency, which means that the victim does not owe the attorney anything unless the case is won.