Dog Bites And The Law

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 800,000 peoples a year receive medical attention for dog bites. Here's the law.

Horror of horrors, your pet poodle unexpectedly decided to bite and injure an old friend who happened to pop in unannounced. 

What is the legal position, and can you be held accountable? Will precious Pandora need to be euthanized? 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Can You Be Sued if Your Dog Bites and Injures Somebody?

The simple answer is yes; you can be.

Whether you will be found liable or not depends on the law in your state and is decided on a case by case basis.

The victim is usually compensated through your homeowners or renter’s insurance. However, you may be held personally liable if you do not have insurance.

What is the One Bite Rule?

The one-bite rule is not applied in all states. So you will need to assess whether it applies in your state.

According to the rule, as the dog owner, you are held strictly liable for all injuries caused by the dog only if you knew or should have known about the animal’s dangerous propensities.

Generally, bite victims will win if they can prove one of the following things:

  1. To the dog owner’s knowledge, the dog had bitten someone else in the past. (Note that a bit is not always required, and even prior vicious behavior can suffice). 
  2. The dog was outside the boundaries of the owner’s residence but was not on a leash. (It must have also violated a local leash law).
  3. Someone was negligent or misleading, which resulted in the bite. (For example, a promise that a dog would be kept away from guests in the home). 

If there is a state or local law, you as the dog owner may be liable unconditionally or with fewer conditions.

In Chicago and the state of Illinois, the one-bite rule does not exist. So, in Chicago, you as the dog owner are liable for your dog as long as the victim was peacefully conducting himself in any place where he could lawfully be.

In almost every state, dog owners will be held liable if their negligence causes a biting incident.

Did you know that some personal injury firms specialize in these types of claims? A dog bite lawyer based in Chicago won as much as $250,000 for one of their clients who injured their shoulder when they were chased by a large dog, jumped over a fence, and then injured themselves from the fall. So, it doesn’t always even need to be a bite to claim, sometimes just an attack.

Will My Dog Have To Be Euthanized?

Usually, nothing will happen to the dog. However, it might be quarantined for a few days.

However, in the case of a brutal or vicious attack, the local animal control authority may order that the dog is either confined or even destroyed. 

Often the victim does not want anything to happen to the dog. If local authorities have not been notified, the victim can instruct their lawyer to refrain from notifying, and the lawyer will act accordingly.

What if My Dog Was Provoked?

If your dog was teased or provoked and then bit the victim, a possible defense could be made, reducing the claim significantly or even quashing the claim entirely.

Different states apply different approaches, so it’s best to see a specialist dog bite lawyer for advice.

Final Takeaways

Dog bites happen all the time. 

You need to see a professional lawyer if you are worried about being sued. They will be able to advise on all of the local laws and whether you can be held personally liable.

Make sure you are insured in some form or another – the consequences could be severe financially if you are not.

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