What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Law

October 29, 2017

What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Law

What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Law

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog every year in the United States. About 900,000 of those bites require medical attention. In most states, the simple fact that you own or keep a dog that bit somebody is sufficient to hold you liable for any damages that were caused by the bite. In other states, the victim must prove that the dog’s owner or keeper knew or should have known that the dog was either vicious, or the owner was otherwise negligent like being in violation of a state statute or local ordinance.

Strict liability

Most states have a written strict liability dog bite law. A victim need not show negligence or intent. The fact that the victim was bitten by a dog owned or kept by the defendant is a sufficient basis for prevailing in a claim or lawsuit, so long as the victim didn’t provoke the dog and wasn’t trespassing. The simple rationale behind dog bite strict liability is that if you own or keep a dog on premises that you own or occupy, you should be liable for any damages that it causes.

The one free bite rule

In states that don’t have a written dog bite law, the general rule is that every dog gets one free bite. Under this rule, the dog’s owner or keeper might be held liable for a bite if he or she knew that their dog had bitten somebody in the past or had behaved in the past like it was going to bite somebody. The rule can also apply to situations like when a large and friendly dog jumps up to greet somebody, knocks him or her down and causes injuries. If a state has no written dog bite law, an owner or keeper of a dog can still be held strictly liable if a local strict liability ordinance exists.


Unless a state has a statute limiting what a dog bite victim might receive for his or her injuries, certain generally compensable damages might consist of:

– Past medical bills and medical bills reasonably expected to be incurred in the future
– Any past lost earnings and earnings reasonably expected to be lost in the future like plastic surgery
– Any permanent disfigurement
– Any permanent disability
– Pain and suffering
– Loss of a normal life
– Funeral and burial expenses in the event of a wrongful death
– Insurance
Nearly all home and business owners have insurance that will cover a dog attack or accident. Renters might even have coverage. Never give a written or recorded statement of what happened to the opposing insurance company. The law doesn’t require you to do so, and that opposing insurer only wants to try to use that statement against you in the future to attack your credibility.

You’ll serve yourself well by speaking with a knowledgeable and experienced dog bite attorney right away after an incident or attack. Free consultations and case evaluations are available.