What Are The Different Types Of Laws Governing Dog Bites?

December 7, 2017 at 7:45 AM Leave a comment

Dog bites fall under the category of personal injury law. When you are bitten by someone else’s dog or your dog bites someone else, there are times when you may be found at fault and others when you bear no responsibility. Legally determined by a combination of the laws dictated by the state where you live and whether the person had permission to be on your property, dog bites are legally handled in one of two ways. Some states go by “strict liability,” while others go by the “one-bite” laws.

What is a “one-bite” law?

The “one-bite law” means that if an owner has a dog that has already bitten someone or showed the propensity to be aggressive, the owner is liable to pay for subsequent damages if the dog bites someone. Those states that go by the one-bite law allow the dog owner one bite before they are held responsible for injuries. If you are the first person bitten by the dog, then you can’t recover for your injuries.

The exception to the one-bite rule is that not all states allow one free bite. If the owner knows that the dog has the potential to be dangerous to others, then they can be held liable if the dog bites someone. One thing that might indicate that an owner would know that a dog could be aggressive is if they have a breed that is considered highly aggressive or dangerous. In this case you are legally obligated to ensure the safety of others on your property.

The problem with the one-bite rule is that it can be problematic to prove that the owner knew that a dog had the propensity to be dangerous unless the dog has actually bitten someone. It’s more likely than not that if the dog has never bitten someone, then a jury will typically assume that the dog owner had no idea that the dog could be dangerous; therefore, they would not rule in favor of the injured person.

The only way to prove in a court of law that an owner knew their dog had the potential to be dangerous is to have witnesses who can testify that the dog has shown aggression in the past, or that they have personally seen the dog being aggressive. Since most people would rather not get involved, that can pose a severe hurdle for someone trying to prove that the owner knew a dog was dangerous.

Strict liability dog bite laws

Those states that follow strict liability dog bite laws are different. Most of the strict liability cases maintain that if a dog bites someone – regardless of whether or not they have a history of being aggressive – the owner is responsible for paying for any injuries. The law doesn’t assume that the dog owner could have either known or seen the signs that a dog could bite someone. It makes no difference. If someone is injured by a dog bite, then the owner is held liable – period.

The conditions that must be met for a dog bite to fall under strict liability are:

  • If the plaintiff was allowed to be where they were when they were bitten – meaning they had permission to be on the premises or near the dog and they were bitten
  • The plaintiff didn’t in any way provoke the dog to bite them

Those plaintiffs that live in states where dog bites are guided by strict liability are more likely to recover for their injuries when compared to those in states with the one-bite rule.

If you are injured by a dog bite, then knowing what the rules of your state are is imperative to understand who is responsible and liable to pay for your injuries. There are times when you have to prove that the dog owner should have known the dog was dangerous, and others when it makes no difference. The best way to recover for your injuries is to hire a dog bite attorney Los Angeles who knows the specific laws of your state and whether or not you need to provide proof of the dog’s predisposition towards aggressive behavior.

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