Dog Bites

Posted on Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Pet owners are responsible for ensuring that their pets do not inflict harm on others. If pet owners allow their pets to bite, scratch, maul or cause injury in some other way, the victim can take action. The attorneys at Coker, Schickel, Sorenson, Posgay & Iracki are here to help you take that action. We are here to help you pursue justice – the full, fair and complete compensation you deserve to cover:

  • Medical bills (past and future)
  • Lost income and potential earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability

Overview Of Dog Bite Law

American dog bite law consists of civil and criminal law, found in state statutes, county and city ordinances, and court decisions. The laws vary widely among jurisdictions.

The key issue in a dog bite case is the extent to which the jurisdiction follows the old English “one bite rule.” This ancient law shields a dog owner or harborer from liability, civilly and criminally, until he has a certain degree of knowledge that his dog is dangerous or vicious. When he has this knowledge, however, criminal laws may impose serious consequences on the dog owner or harborer, such as jail time or a fine, animal control laws may impose euthanasia or conditions for retaining the dog, and the civil justice system makes the owner or harborer strictly liable for all losses and damages resulting from the bite.

Thirty states (the “strict liability states”) and the District of Columbia have statutes which either eliminate or substantially modify the one-bite rule, making dog owners (and sometimes harborers and keepers) civilly liable for all or most dog bites as long as the victim neither trespassed nor provoked the dog. In some states, such as Florida, liability can be automatic, while in others there are conditions for or limitations upon it. Likewise, criminal laws and animal control laws may impose consequences upon the dog and its owner or harborer in a number of situations where the dog did not previously display viciousness toward people.

Whether or not a state follows the one bite rule, liability can result from the negligent handling or confinement of a dog or the violation of a leash law or other animal control law intended to protect against bodily injury to people. Injuries caused by negligence make a dog owner, harborer or keeper liable in almost every state.