Personal Injury:

Liability of Dog Owners

Most states have enacted laws regarding dog bites. Although the specifics of these laws vary by state, there are three basic laws that can hold a dog owner accountable for injuries caused by their dog. If you suffered a dog bite, and would like to learn the specific liability of dog owners in your state, fill out our free case review form to speak with a dog bite lawyer today.

Strict Liability

Many states, including New Jersey and California, have strict liability laws in regard to dog bite injuries. A dog bite strict liability law states that the owner is responsible for almost every injury caused by their dog. Strict liability laws do not take into account whether the dog bite victim knew the animal was dangerous or had attacked someone in the past. These laws also do not relieve the dog owner from liability because he or she attempted to restrain the dog or placed fencing and signs to protect others from the animal.

A few exceptions to strict liability law may relieve the dog owner from liability. Even in strict liability states, dog owners are not typically liable if the dog attacks:

  • Trespassers
  • Veterinarians
  • Individuals who provoke the dog

One Bite Laws

States with one bite” laws maintain that the owner is not liable for the dog’s first bite. In other words, dogs get one “free” bite, and the owner will be held at fault for personal injuries caused by subsequent dog bites. For instance, if a dog, for the first time, bites a jogger, the owner typically will not be responsible for these injuries assuming he or she did not violate another law and was not negligent (i.e. left the fence open.) However, the next time the dog bites an individual, the owner will be liable for that victim’s injuries.

There are exceptions to one bite laws. Dog owners are not protected by one bite laws if they knew, or had reason to know, that the dog was dangerous and could hurt an individual. In general, a dog owner should know that their dog was dangerous if:

  • The dog previously bit someone
  • The dog snaps at others on a regular basis
  • The dog wears a muzzle
  • The owner warns people that the dog may bite

Dog Bite Laws: Negligence

Most states maintain that the owner is responsible if their “negligent acts” led to the dog bite injury. In other words, the dog owner will be held liable if they did something they shouldn’t have or failed to do something they should have done, and a dog bite injury results.

An owner may be found negligent if the following actions or inactions led to a dog bite injury:

  • Breaking a leash law and allowing a dog to run free
  • Knowing the dog is easily excited and failing to take reasonable steps to prevent others from harm
  • Using fencing, rope or chain that does not adequately restrain the dog

In some states, a dog owner can be held liable because of negligence even if they are not responsible under the state’s strict liability or one bite law.

If you were bitten by a dog, or if a loved one suffered injuries from a dog bite, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Contact our dog bite attorneys today by filling out our free case review form and we will ensure your rights are protected.

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