Liability for Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites often cause more injury than just the broken skin itself. After a dog bite, you may face infection, disfigurement, pain and suffering, missed work, and mental anguish. Some dog bite victims develop a deep fear of dogs, even if they had no prior traumatic experiences. When you are facing physical and mental health costs after a dog bite injury that wasn’t your fault, you may be wondering who is liable and what you can do to receive compensation.
When is a Dog Owner Liable?
In most cases, the dog owner is liable. The only cases in which the owner would not be liable are when the victim either provoked the dog into attacking or was trespassing on the property. With the exception of these cases, a dog owner is strictly liable for the injuries caused by the dog. That means you do not need to prove:
- That the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause injury; or
- That the harm occurred because the dog owner was negligent.
In other cases, like car crashes or medical malpractice, the burden of proof falls on the victim to prove that the other party was negligent. But since there is a statute imposing strict liability on the dog owner, there is no need to look into the history of the dog to see if it has attacked before, nor do you need to prove that the owner allowed the dog to run free or violated a local leash law.
What does “Strict-Liability” Mean?
In more than half the states, including Ohio, the owner of the dog is automatically liable for most dog injuries caused by a dog they own or harbor. This means that the injured person doesn’t need to prove that the owner knew the dog was dangerous or that the owner was careless. The theory behind strict liability statutes is that any dog owner needs to be responsible for any damage done by their dog (with the exceptions of when the dog was provoked or the victim was trespassing at the time of the bite). In some states, the strict-liability statute only covers the bite itself, while others cover other injuries resulting from a dog attack. Ohio is a strict-liability state that covers more than just the dog bite. If you were bitten by a dog in Ohio and did not trespass on the property or provoke the dog, the liability will fall on the dog’s owner.
As the victim of a dog attack, though, you still bear the burden to prove the extent of your injuries by a preponderance of the evidence. This requires you to gather medical evidence and other documentation to help establish the amount of compensation you are entitled to receive. This is where experienced personal injury attorneys are important, as they know what documentation and other evidence to gather, and they know how to negotiate a fair resolution to your claim. They also know what other recourse to take if the dog owner is not properly insured for the dog attack you have just suffered.
What Should I Do After a Dog Bite?
There are several steps to take to protect yourself. The first is to make sure you are safe from any further attacks and treat your injuries.
- Get the name and phone number of the dog’s owner, even if you don’t know for sure you’ll be pursuing action. If the owner has insurance, get that information as well.
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Memories fade and dog bite cases can quickly turn into competing stories. Witness accounts should be documented while they are fresh.
- Take pictures of your injuries, the dog, and anything else you need to support your story.
- Document all your medical care, including all bills for treatment and follow up care.
- Report the incident to animal control. Many counties and cities require that a dog be quarantined after biting someone to ensure it is not rabid. This is also important for the dog’s history of attacking.
Can I Sue After a Dog Bite?
The first step is for your legal representative to notify the dog owner’s insurance company of the claim. The dog owner’s home or renter’s insurance should cover dog bites. If the owner is not insured or if your legal representative is not able to negotiate with the insurance company, the next step is to file a lawsuit in court against the owner. After filing your case, you can still settle out of court if the insurance company reassesses the claim based on new evidence presented by your lawyers. If you’ve been injured by a dog bite, it is smart to talk to a personal injury attorney experienced with dog attacks before proceeding. Your attorney can guide you through the best course of action.
After a dog bite, it’s important to take the right steps to protect yourself and your legal rights. Speaking with a personal injury attorney will help ensure you get the fair compensation you deserve. If you’ve been injured by a dog, we can help you get a fair settlement. Contact Arthur Law Firm at (419) 782-9881 right away for a free consultation.