How to Defend a Dog Bite Case
Updated: Feb 24
When their dogs bite people or injure them in other ways, dog owners are usually held accountable. The injured party can therefore sue the owner of the dog to receive compensation for their losses. This may include compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, and damage to their property.
However, it is not always reasonable to hold the dog owner liable if the victim of the dog attack was at fault for their injury.
When a Dog Owner Is Not Liable
The owner of the dog who attacked the complainant, and their insurer or attorney, may respond by claiming that the victim caused the attack by provoking the dog, was trespassing on their private property, or breaking the law at the time of the attack.
A dog owner is also not responsible for damages if the victim risked being bitten by the dog voluntarily, or if the victim contributed to the injury by being careless.
However, dog owners cannot use all these arguments in every situation. Certain defenses, for example, are not permitted under state law in certain states. In addition, the available defenses may differ according to the nature of the injury lawsuits.
The Laws Regarding Dog Bites
It is useful to understand that the victim of a dog bite may sue the owner of a dog owner based on these rules:
● In some states, a legal principle, often referred to as the "one-bite rule," holds owners liable only if they have previous knowledge that their dogs were potentially dangerous.
● Most states have "strict liability" laws about dog bites that hold dog owners liable even if they had no prior knowledge that the dog was dangerous.
● Other laws or court decisions hold dog owners liable if they were negligent or failed to control their pets.
● Many states' dog-bite laws do not apply in some circumstances, most notably when the victim provoked the dog, or was trespassing on the dog owner's property.
Some of these statutes require victims to demonstrate that they were not at fault. Furthermore, some defenses may be used if the dog owner's responsibility is centered on negligence, or the one-bite rule, rather than a dog-bite statute.
Dog owners are often exonerated if the victim provoked the dog, by striking or taunting it, but what about behavior that is not openly or provocative?
Depending on the context, the court may absolve owners of liability when victims inadvertently provoke dogs by treading on their tails, stroking, or petting the animal while it is confined or eating, meddling in a dog fight, or spraying a repellant or harmful chemical on a dog in self-defense.
Toddlers tend to pet unfamiliar dogs, vigorously stroking them, or pulling on their tails. Can the owner of the dog use the provocation defense if the dog bites the child in response? The answer is partly determined by the phrasing of the applicable state law, and how the court interprets it.
In some states, dog-bite laws presume that a wounded child under the age of seven did not provoke the dog that attacked him or her, which means that the owner would be held liable unless he or she can prove that the child provoked the dog, which resulted in the attack.
Exposure to the Risk of Being Attacked
A dog owner could avoid liability by demonstrating that the victim was aware of the risk of injury from the dog but chose to take that risk and approach the dog anyway.
An example is if the victim ignored a prominent sign warning people about the dog. In this case, the owner may not be held liable.
The above rule typically applies when dogs injure vets and other individuals who work with animals. These include vet assistants, pet sitters, groomers, and those who run kennels because they accept the risk of dog bites as part of their job.
However, courts often disagree on whether the owners of dogs can invoke this defense when sued under a state's dog-bite legislation, while others have accepted this rule.
Be sure to consult an experienced dog bite attorney who can guide dog owners on the laws in play in their respective states.
The Best Chance at Winning a Dog-bite Lawsuit
Winning a lawsuit against the victim of a dog attack can be difficult, especially if the owner of the dog chooses not to enlist the help of dog attack attorneys. Contact Kenneth Powell from Powell Law Firm for the best chance of winning a dog bite case.