There are probably few things that paint a picture of innocence better than being the victim of a dog bite. Unfortunately, at least from a legal perspective, a dog bite is not a simple matter. Instead, there are a number of complicated issues at work that must be determined.
As much as people love their dogs, the fact remains that dogs—even dogs that would never bite anybody—bite people. Unfortunately, when people are bitten, for whatever reason, they are usually not shy about suing an owner for not exercising reasonable care in preventing a bite. This is when it is usually time to consider hiring an attorney.
Reasonable Care and Winning a Lawsuit
To take a dog out in public, an owner must exercise reasonable care to control the dog’s behavior. This includes the use of a leash, but it can also encompass other issues as well, including whether it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the dog could cause an injury. Most states have what is called strict liability laws that make an owner automatically liable when a dog bites someone. There is no need, in these states, for a victim to prove the owner was negligent in preventing the bite.
Lawsuits resulting from dog bites usually take place in states where there are no strict liability laws. They also occur where these laws do not apply, such as when an injury results from a dog jumping on someone who falls and suffers an injury.
There are also states that have what is called a “One-Bite Rule,” which holds that an owner can be held liable for an injury if they knew or should have known that a dog possessed a propensity to bite someone.
Proving Negligence in a Dog Bite Injury
In all other instances where a dog bites someone and causes an injury, a victim may sue the owner of a dog for damages. In these cases, that victim must prove that there are two issues at work. These issues are:
- The owner of the dog failed to exercise reasonable care to control their dog’s actions
- The negligence of the owner was directly responsible for the harm that came to the injured person
In some cases, it can be very difficult to prove the negligence of an owner. This is due, to a great extent, to the circumstances surrounding the incident as well as how judges in some states interpret their laws.
Reasonable Duty of Care
In most cases, an owner must exercise reasonable care in preventing their dogs from harming someone. This includes keeping a leash on a dog to keep them under control or erecting a fence around a property or putting up a warning sign.
When interpreting the duty of care, judges have considerable leeway to work with. For example, a burglar who is bitten in the course of burglary would not have the right to sue a dog owner because they were bitten due to a lack of reasonable care.
Even a dog’s history or breed could be interpreted as a factor in a biting incident. If, for example, a dog has a history of aggressive behavior or is a certain breed that has a propensity to attack and bite, a duty of reasonable care would be appropriate.
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see there is a lot to be considered when considering a lawsuit as a result of a dog bite. Talking to an experienced lawyer could answer a lot of questions a victim might have.