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Owner Liability for a Dog Bite Injury

According to the canine journal, there are at least 4.5 million cases of dog bites each year in the United States. Out of these, over 800,000 dog bites require urgent medical care. Depending on the severity of the attack, a dog bite injury can be very catastrophic and expensive to treat. Therefore, if you are a victim of a dog attack, you may want to hold the dog owner liable and claim compensation. While you have a right to do so, several factors will determine if you have a valid claim. 

To know your rights, state laws, and legal options, talk to Kohan and Bablove or a personal injury lawyer near you. The right lawyer will review the facts and help you determine if you have a legal right to sue for damages. 

Photo: Flickr

What Is a Dog Owner’s Liability?

A dog owner refers to any person who owns, possesses, or is in charge of a dog at the time of the attack. This is regardless of whether they were taking care of someone else’s dog. This law is in place to ensure that dog caregivers or walkers take extra care while handling the animals.

A dog owner is liable for any injuries that result from their pet’s attack. The liability depends on fault, negligence, or the dog’s tendency to act aggressively. The only exception to this law is when the dog attacked a person while protecting the property from criminal activity. 

In several states, if the victim was poking, provoking, aggravating, or taunting the dog in any way, the dog owner may not be held liable for the injuries. However, several laws are used to determine liability, negligence, provocation, defense, and more. 

Provocation in a Dog Bite Case

While actions such as poking or taunting count as a provocation in a dog injury case, other unintentional actions can also contribute to provocation in such cases. For example, if the victim accidentally steps on a dog that they did not see, they can cause the dog to behave aggressively, and the defendant can use that as a provocation defense. 

The main factor in provocation is the intent to make a dog behave aggressively. To claim compensation, the plaintiff has to prove that they did not provoke the dog in any way. The defendant must also successfully argue that the dog was provoked. If provocation is proved, the plaintiff can lose the entire case or have the damages reduced by some percentage because they contributed to the attack.

When the Dog’s Past Behavior Matters

In as much as there is no reasonable dog behavior according to the law, a dog’s behavior will be considered when it comes to provocation. For example, if the dog is overly sensitive and reacts aggressively to a slight provocation, the owner will be held fully liable. What is considered is whether it was predictable that the dog can be provoked under the circumstances that they are in. If the dog is an aggressive breed and was slightly provoked, the owner might successfully argue that the plaintiff provoked the dog.

Given that a dog owner or caregiver knows the dog more, they have to keep everyone else around them safe from the dog’s attack. If they failed to warn the plaintiff or victim of the dog’s aggressive nature or character, they cannot use provocation as a defense and will be held liable for their dog’s actions.  

Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer

Several states have dog bite statutes. However, these statutes vary from state to state. Though the statutes make it easy for plaintiffs to win a dog bite case, they do not disregard a provocation defense. If the defendant can prove provocation, they can also win the case. If you have a dog injury case, it is vital to have a good lawyer who can provide the evidence needed to support the claim or defense.

About the author


Shelly is an avid reader, and the love of reading takes her to content writing eventually. She loves writing on various topics.

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