According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, more than 4 million dog bites take place each year, and nearly 20 percent of those cases require medical attention. A dog attack can cause serious injuries, fatalities, or long-term traumatic stress. Treatment may run into thousands of dollars, not forgetting the lost income from hours spent seeking treatment and recovery.
When you or a loved one suffers a dog bite, you could turn to the law to hold the owner accountable for the injuries. If you make a compelling case, you could recover compensation for all the related demands. Dog bite laws vary across many states, which is why you need to speak to a local dog bite attorney before initiating a case.
What Is Owner Liability in Dog Bite Lawsuits?
Dog owner liability states that the dog owner is responsible in cases where the injury was partly due to their carelessness or if they knew their pets had the habit of causing such injuries.
Liability claims can be compelling if the following facts are present:
- The victim was not trespassing.
- The victim did not provoke the animal.
- The dog was unleashed despite prior knowledge of its viciousness (negligence).
Some state laws have a strict liability clause for dog bites. Where this applies, the owner is liable even without prior knowledge, especially if it happens on public property.
How Much Should I Claim for Dog Bite Settlement?
It is hard to put a ballpark figure on a dog bite settlement because it depends on the facts of the case, including the extent of the injuries.
Your claim can cover:
- Medical expenses: Treatment for dog bites can blow a massive hole in your finances. You should be able to recover the money spent on hospital bills and medication if your case is successful.
- Disability claims: Severe bites could cause disability, and when it happens, you will need to include disability benefits in the settlement.
- Lost income: You can claim compensation if a dog bite injury keeps you from work, causing you to lose your wages.
- Emotional trauma: Dog attacks can lead to long-term emotional damage, making it hard to return to your usual self. You might be able to get compensation for the pain and discomfort.
The settlement involves placing a dollar amount on the justifiable damages. However, this is usually subjective, and you might be fairly compensated, especially when an insurance company is in the picture. Getting legal representation ensures that you get a fair appraisal of your injuries to avoid unjust settlements.
Do Insurance Companies Pay for Dog Bite Claims?
Many homeowners’ policies can settle a claim on a successful verdict. However, this only applies where the dog owner has this clause in their coverage. Without the appropriate coverage, any settlements must come out of the owner’s pocket, which could likely lead to under-compensation if not well addressed.
What to Do After a Dog Bite?
If you or a loved one falls victim to a dog attack:
- Find the dog’s owner and get their contact.
- Ensure that you have the names and contact details of any witnesses. It will come in handy should you disagree with the dog owner.
- Take pictures of the dog where possible, inflicted injuries, and any crucial landmarks leading to the scene.
- Seek immediate medical attention and keep records of every visit and hospital bill.
- Report the incident to the animal control authorities. They might want to know the dog’s owner or if it wore a license tag-(steps 1, 2, and 3 above will come in handy).
Typical Dog Laws Across the States
The following list summarizes the applicable laws on dog bites across all states.
Applicable statute(s) – Alabama Code § 3-6-1
In Alabama, the owner will be held liable if it happens within their property, but they could be off the hook if they can prove provocation.
- Arizona Revised Statutes § 11-1020. Dogs; liability
- Arizona Revised Statutes § 11-1025. Liability for dog bites
- Arizona Revised Statutes § 11-1026. Lawful presence on private property defined
Liability falls to the owner if it happens in public and under lawful entry into private property.
Applicable statute(s) – California Code, Civil Code – CIV § 3342
The owner is liable if the bite occurs in public or the victim is lawfully on private property.
Applicable statute(s) – Colorado Revised Statutes § 13-21-124. Civil actions against dog owners
The owner may not be liable for the first bite unless they knew about the dog’s propensity to bite or if the victim suffers serious bodily injury.
Applicable statute(s) – Connecticut General Statutes. § 22-357. Damage by dogs to person or property
The owner faces strict liability if the victim is under the age of seven or if they are bitten without trespassing or provocation.
Applicable statute(s) – Delaware Code Del.C. § 16-3053F. Liability of dog owner for damages
The owner faces strict liability if the victim was not trespassing, committing a crime, or provoking the dog.
#7. District of Columbia
Applicable statute(s) – District of Columbia Code Division I. Government of District. § 8-1808. Prohibited Conduct.
D.C. has a contributory negligence clause that may rule out compensation if the victim’s actions caused the bite. The dog owner is liable if it was not controlled at the time.
Applicable statute(s) – Florida Statutes § 767.01 & 767.04 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten
Comparative fault might reduce the victim’s compensation if their actions contributed to the incident. The dog owner will not be liable if they have a clear No Trespass sign on their property or if the victim committed a crime.
Applicable statute(s) – Georgia Code § 51-2-7 Vicious animals, liability for injuries caused
The owner may be liable if the dog is not under control.
Applicable statute(s) – Hawaii Revised Statutes Division 4. Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 663-9.1. Exception of animal owners to civil liability
The victim may sue the owner for damages unless the dog owner proves trespass or provoking the dog.
Applicable statute(s) – Illinois Statutes Chapter 510. Animals § 5/16.Animal attacks or injuries
The dog owner faces strict liability unless the victim was trespassing or provoking the dog.
Applicable statute(s) – Iowa Code § 351.28. Liability for damages
The dog owner is liable for any harm caused to a person or a domestic animal. They will also be held liable where negligence is proven.
Applicable statute(s) – Kentucky Revised Statutes § 258.235 Authority to kill or seize dog; return by court to owner of vicious dog; liability for damage; proceeding by person attacked by dog; disposition of dog after seizure; powers of animal control officer; vicious dog not to run at large
Dangerous dogs must be kept away from people. The dog owner may be held liable for injuries or damage to people, livestock, and property.
Applicable statute(s) – Louisiana Statutes Article. 2321. Damage caused by animals.
Strict liability applies where the owner may have prevented the injury.
Applicable statute(s) – Maine Revised Statutes § 7.729. Damage by Animals
The owner is strictly liable if their dog bites someone off their property, but the victim might have to prove that they did not cause any provocation.
Applicable statute(s) – Code of Maryland section 3-1901 Actions against dog owners for personal injury or death caused by dog
The owner is not strictly liable in the following situations:
- The victim was trespassing or attempting to trespass
- The victim was committing or attempting to commit a crime
- The owner proves that the victim provoked the dog
Applicable statute(s) – Massachusetts General Laws § 140.155. Liability for damage caused by dogs; minors; presumption and burden of proof
The dog owner is strictly liable if there is no trespass or provocation or if the victim is under seven years old.
Applicable statute(s) – Michigan Compiled Laws § 287.351 Person bitten by dog; liability of owner.
The dog owner is strictly liable if the victim is in public or lawfully on private property as long as they did not provoke the dog.
Applicable statute(s) – Minnesota Statutes § 347.22 Damages, owner liable.
Minnesota dog owners may be liable if the dog attacks a person who is lawfully where they are, and they are not causing any provocation.
Applicable statute(s) – Annotated Missouri Statutes 273.036. Dog bite without provocation-owner liable for damages
A dog owner may be fined $1,000 if they are found liable for negligence, but the victim’s compensation may be reduced if they are found to have been at fault.
Applicable statute(s) – Montana Title 27. Civil Liability, Remedies, and Limitations § 27-1-715. Liability of owner of vicious dog
The dog owner is strictly liable for damages caused by their dog in an incorporated region.
Applicable statute(s) – Revised Statutes of Nebraska § 54.601. Dogs; personal property; owner liable for damages.
Strict liability will not apply to trespassers and injuries caused by the dog’s playfulness.
#23. New Hampshire
Applicable statute(s) – Statutes Annotated of the State of New Hampshire. Title XLV. Animals. 466:19 Liability of Owner or Keeper.
The dog owner is liable for all damage caused by the dog and any playful acts leading to injuries.
#24. New Jersey
Applicable statute(s) – New Jersey Statutes Annotated. Title 4: 19-16. Liability of owner regardless of viciousness of dog
The owner is strictly liable if the victim was not trespassing.
#25. New York
Applicable statute(s) – New York Consolidated Laws, Agriculture and Markets Law – AGM § 123. Dangerous dogs
Liability claims are allowed for injuries to people, livestock, and pet animals. Non-medical claims may need concrete proof of negligence.
#26. North Carolina
Applicable statute(s) – North Carolina General Statutes Annotated § 14.67-12. Permitting dogs to run at large at night; penalty; liability for damage
The dog owner is strictly liable if they let a dangerous dog run wild or if the victim can prove negligence.
Applicable statute(s) – Ohio Revised Code Annotated. Title IX. 955.28 Dog may be killed for certain acts; owner liable for damages.
The dog owner is strictly liable if the victim did provoke the dog, did not trespass, or was not committing or planning to commit a crime.
Applicable statute(s) – Oklahoma Statutes Annotated. Title 21. § 42.1. Personal injury by dog-Liability of owner
The dog owner is strictly liable for bites without provocation.
Applicable statute(s) – Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes § 459-502. Dog bites; detention and isolation of dogs
The dog owner is strictly liable for severe injury claims if the dog acts without provocation or if the victim was not trespassing.
#30. Rhode Island
Applicable statute(s) – Rhode Island General Laws Title 4. Animals and Animal Husbandry § 4-13-16. Action for damages to animals-Double damages on second recovery-Destruction of offending dog
Dog owners will be held liable for damages caused by an unrestrained dog and fined for subsequent incidents.
#31. South Carolina
Applicable statute(s) – South Carolina Code of Laws Annotated § 47-3-10
Liability falls on the dog owner if it happens on public property or when the victim is legally on private property.
Applicable statute(s) – Tennessee Code § 44-8-413. Injury caused by dogs; civil liability; exceptions; limitations
Unless the victim was trespassing, the dog owner is liable if they knew the animal’s propensities.
Applicable statute(s) – Texas Health and Safety Code § 822.005. Attack by Dog
The dog owner may be liable if the victim can prove negligence.
Applicable statute(s) – Utah Code § 18-1-1. Liability of owners-Scienter-Dogs used in law enforcement
Dog owners are strictly liable, but the statute exempts law enforcement animals.
Applicable statute(s) – RCW 16.08.040 Dog bites-Liability.
Strict liability applies if the victim accessed private property lawfully or if the attack happened in a public space. However, this may not apply to law enforcement dogs.
#36. West Virginia
Applicable statute(s) – West Virginia Code § 19-20-13. Dog running at large; liability of owner
Strict liability falls on owners who fail to restrain their dogs.
Applicable statute(s) – Wisconsin Statutes § 174.02. Owner’s liability for damage caused by dog; penalties; court order to kill a dog
The owner will be penalized between $50-$500 if the dog causes injuries to a person, game animals like birds and deer, domestic animals, and property damage. The dog owner will be liable for twice the damage if it happens the second time.
In many of these states lacking definitive statutes, plaintiffs can hold dog owners liable under negligence laws if the victim proves that the owners knew their dog’s propensities.
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Call a Dog Bite Attorney Near You
A dog bite attorney can help you seek justice for personal injuries caused by another person’s negligence. Contact a personal injury attorney with experience in dog bite cases if you need representation for your dog bite injury claim.