Who is Responsible For a Dog That Bites?
A dog that bites is capable of inflicting terrible injury on someone, and in fact, there are about 800,000 attacks every year that require hospitalization. Such attacks may result in broken bones, severe infections, and permanent loss of limb function or disfigurement. And if the victim is brought to the ground, the injury can be potentially life-threatening. However, the laws regarding these attacks can be confusing, and differ greatly from state to state. A personal injury attorney can help a victim understand these laws and use them to fight back against a negligent canine owner.
The Owner is Always the Party Responsible For an Attack
The owner is always the party responsible for an attack, though the victim may share liability if they provoked the animal prior to injury. In the vast majority of cases, the animal attacks without warning and for reasons that are unclear. In some states, there are statutes present that make the owner liable even if the animal has attacked for the first time and has no history of acting aggressively. These statutes generally refer to no-fault liability, which means the victim does not have to prove that the owner did something wrong. They only have to prove their injury was caused by the canine, and that the canine was the responsibility of the owner at the time.
The One Bite Rule
In many states, though, these attacks are governed by the “one bite rule,” which makes liability more difficult to ascertain. This legal concept, which is used in Texas, protects the owner from liability if their pet showed no aggressive tendencies prior to attacking someone. In short, it allows the owner to assume that their canine is not dangerous until it proves otherwise. This, however, does not mean, like the name may suggest, that the owner is always protected from liability the first time the animal attacks someone. If the canine shows any tendency to aggression, such as snapping at or jumping on a stranger, then the animal is considered dangerous, and its owner will not be protected if the dog goes on to cause injury.
The victim will have to prove that the animal was known to be aggressive when filing a claim against an owner, and this presents difficulties. The owner of a dog that bites will likely claim ignorance of any attacks the animal was responsible for in the past. A victim may have to incorporate witness testimony or a police report into their claim to secure this proof, and will also need to keep track of their medical treatment related to the injury. And if the animal’s owner is particularly negligent prior to an attack, such as letting the animal roam freely through the neighborhood, or starving them to the point of aggression, then they may be forced to pay additional compensation for committing gross negligence.
Dealing with an animal attack can leave lasting physical and emotional trauma, and victims are often unsure how to fight back when hurt. A dog bite attorney can provide that needed guidance, and help an injured person handle the aftermath.