Dog Bite Law Overview

Dog bite law is a complex specialty within the greater practice of personal injury and liability law. Although liability law can be complex, dog bite law presents unique complications which deserve special attention. For dog bite victims seeking just compensation, the services of a specialist in dog bite law are highly recommended.

Nationwide, the statues and laws that govern dog bite attacks and liability show considerable variation. At the state level, this variation can be broken down in to three broad categories of dog bite law: statutory strict liability, one bite rule and mixed dog bite liability.

Most Common Dog Bite Law: Statutory Strict Liability

Most states apply what is known as strict liability to dog owners. This means that if a dog bites a person, the owner of the dog will be held liable for the injuries caused, even if the dog had shown no tendency toward violence before. Statutory strict liability states also typically do not require dog bite victims to prove any sort of negligence on the part of the dog owner.

Within this broad category, states offer unique exceptions to strict liability rules. In some states, a dog owner is not liable for bites that occur on their property, while other states limit liability to strictly economic losses. Victims of a dog bite attack are strongly encouraged to discuss their case with a dog bite lawyer from their state.

One Bite Rule States

Several states shield dog owners from liability for the first bite delivered by an animal, provided the owner had no knowledge that the dog was more dangerous or mean-tempered than is normal for the dog’s breed. Subsequent animal attacks that result in biting injuries receive no special protection, and the owner is fully liable for these injuries. In a one bite state, a dog owner may still be held liable for a first bite through other legal grounds, such as property liability, or by violating local statutes, such as a leash law.

Mixed Dog Bite Statute States

Three states offer legislation that places them in between strict liability and one bite rule. Georgia, New York and Tennessee have strict liability law for most instances of dog bite. However, all three states have considerable exceptions for some cases of animal attack.

Dog Bite Law: Other Considerations

Dogs can harm people without biting. Claw scrapes and other injuries can be every bit as debilitating as a bite injury. However, non-bite injuries may not be addressed under a given jurisdiction’s dog bite law statutes. An experienced dog bite lawyer will be able to shed light on the rights and responsibilities of dog owners and victims for a specific city or state.