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Dog Bites: Liability and Personal Injury Claims

Dogs may be regarded as ‘man’s best friend’, however, every year millions of Americans are bitten by dogs. A study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year with 800,000 of those victims requiring medical care.

According to DogsBite.org, in 2019, homeowners insurance paid out $797 million in claims related to dog bites and dog-related injuries. Unfortunately for most dog owners, the law surrounding dog bites can be complicated to navigate. In this article we will explore the issue of dog bites, their causes, what the law says and how owners can prevent litigation should a dog bite occur.

What Causes Dog Bites

Before examining the law behind a dog bite, it is important to understand what causes dog bites in the first place. Most bites occur because an animal is reacting to a stressful situation. They may be scared or feel threatened, or they may be attempting to protect themselves or their owners from what they see as a threatening situation.

Dog owners need to take careful note of their dog’s behavior when they are in a social setting and look out for signs of stress that may be a precursor to a dog bite.

Dog Bite Law

The ‘dog bite law’ of any jurisdiction is determined by the state’s civil, criminal, and administrative law, which means that each state will deal with the matter differently.

What all of the states do agree on is that a dog owner is shielded from liability, civilly and criminally, until it can be proven that he/she has a certain degree of knowledge that his/her dog is dangerous or vicious. This can be seen in the One Bite Rule used in most states, that requires a victim to provide proof that a dog owner knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous to receive compensation.

Mitigating Claims in Dog Bite Cases

Aside from the One Bite Rule, a dog owner may also be found not to be liable for an incident if it can be proven that the victim of the bite was provoking the animal, either by teasing or taunting it; if the victim was warned not to approach the animal; or if the victim was illegally on the dog owner’s premises when the attack occurred.

Dog bite claims are a complex matter that should always be dealt with timeously as the timelines and deadlines in this type of case are extremely sensitive. Each case is unique so, for more information relating to dog bite claims, a dog owner’s options in the case of a dog bite, or other law relating to dog bites, be sure to consult a personal injury lawyer in your area. In Utah, the Fielding Law personal injury lawyers can assist with the entire process, from advising on deadlines to helping determine who was liable for the incident, with their team of expert lawyers having a comprehensive grasp of all issues relating to personal injury.

Prevention is Key

There are several measures dog owners can take to help prevent a dog bite from happening in the first place.

Dog owners should socialize their dogs and encourage non-threatening behavior towards other animals and people. Dog owners should also train their dogs to encourage positive and obedient behavior. This is especially important for dog owners of breeds which are commonly dubbed ‘dangerous’ or ‘vicious’, such as Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs. In some states there are even separate laws governing these breeds.

Dog bites affect nearly 1,000 Americans a day with injuries ranging from superficial to life-threatening. If you are a dog owner, or prospective dog owner, be sure to do your research relating to dog bite law in your state to ensure you are prepared in the case of an incident.

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