Dog bites are a serious offense that can get the owners in a lot of trouble. That is, if they are the ones held responsible. There are two main dog bite laws, and each state only goes by one of them. Understanding what your state’s law is and knowing who is liable can help make your case if it goes to court.
The Dog Bite Liability Statute
Many states go by the dog bite liability statute. This statute states that the owner is at fault for any attacks or bites made by their dog. It does not matter if the dog had any previous acts of viciousness or if the owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive behavior. Should you get bit by their dog, you can start a dog bite lawsuit to have the owner pay for the medical bills accrued. This is true whether the dog was on public property or within the owner’s private property.
The only way for the owner to fight this lawsuit is if the person who got bit provoked the animal. If you roughhouse with a dog, tell him to bite you or another person, or otherwise provoke him, then you are the one at fault for the bite you received. The owner is no longer held responsible. The owner and his dog are also not at fault if someone trespassed on the property. It only applies to friends or service people who were invited onto the property by one of the residents.
The One-Bite Rule
The second option that states go by is the one-bite rule. This rule works in favor of dog owners. The first time a dog bites, you are not held at fault. It is chalked up to a one time thing, and you face no charges. You are warned though. Now that you are aware your dog has bitten someone, you now have a greater responsibility to prevent it from happening again. The second time that dog bites, you will be held responsible. The dog may also be deemed as dangerous and will need to be kept in a cage or enclosure that keeps them away from others.
Dangerous Dog Statute
A separate statute regarding dogs is the dangerous dog statute. This one states that either a potentially dangerous dog or a vicious dog needs to be secured at all times. Even when in their own yard, they must be kept in an enclosure that will prevent them from escaping. There should be no possibility that a child can get to the animal. Owners are allowed to walk their dogs and bring them to public locations, but they must be kept on a leash at all times, with an adult controlling them.
The difference between a potentially dangerous dog and a vicious one is the length of time between attacks. To be considered potentially dangerous, a dog can only have two incidents occur during a 36-month period. It also only counts if the dog was not provoked either time. A vicious dog has repeatedly made attempts to cause harm, or has actually harmed, a person or other animal. The fine for the owner is greater for a vicious dog attack, since they were already aware of their dog’s status.
The Law for Negligence
Some locations go by negligence. If a dog bites someone due to their owner’s negligence, then the owner is held at fault. If there was no negligence involved, then the owner is not held responsible. Carelessness in controlling a dog includes letting them off their leash or out of their cage when other people are around and you know they are aggressive.
Dog Bite Settlement Amounts
After a dog bite or other attack made by a dog, you can contact a dog lawyer. All dog bite lawyers are aware of their state’s dog attack laws and will help you get the money you deserve to cover damages. The dog bite settlement amounts people receive vary greatly. There is not one set limit as to how much a person receives when they get bit. The amount will depend on the type of damages, and how large your hospital bills are. A small bite that resulted in a couple stitches will not result in a very large settlement. A severe bite that damaged tendons or ligaments will result in far greater charges. On average, insurance claims are reaching over $30,000 for many dog bite lawsuits. This is due to increasing costs for medical care.
Dogs and Insurance
Many insurance companies include dogs and dog bites in their homeowners policy. This means the insurance company will pay out the settlement amount if you are held responsible for your dog attacking someone. After the first incident, insurance companies have the right to exclude your pet from their policy. This means any future incidents will be paid out of pocket. Some companies may also charge a higher premium.
With so many dog bites occurring and the settlement amounts increasing, numerous companies are changing their pet policies altogether. Some are excluding pets from their policies completely, while others require proof of the pet breed. Many will not put breeds known to be vicious on their policies, including pit bulls or rottweilers. An owner who makes an attempt to rectify their dog’s behavior by taking them to behavioral classes may still be able to keep their policy intact.
Understanding the dog bite laws in your area can better prepare you if a problem with a dog should ever arise. Whether you are the owner or the party who was attacked, you can hire dog bite attorneys to help prove your case. Each state follows their own dog bite laws, many of which find the owner at fault when their dog bites a person or animal. Proving your dog was provoked is often the only way to get yourself off the hook. Speak to an attorney to determine the best solution for your case.