Since several decades and for countless dog owners, dogs have been the best pals. Even today, they continue to be loyal to this companionship. One of the main reasons to rear dogs as pets is to ensure protection from unwanted people on the property.
Well, at times, this trait of protection backfires by biting someone. According to pethelpful.com, the number of dog bites in the U.S. alone is in millions; dogs attack around 4.5 million people each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one of every five injured victims needs medical attention.
So, what happens if a dog bites someone on your property? Did you know that you could encounter a personal injury lawsuit by the victim? In the absence of valid insurance coverage, you could pay the medical expenses of the injured person and even reimburse the other losses apart from paying your legal fees.
Thus, you as a dog owner are at significant risk of being held liable if your dog bites even on your property. The immediate steps that you take may change the legal consequences. You should not accuse or argue with the wounded person. Rather, be nice and treat the person, as the decision to hire an attorney and get paid for damages lies in his hands.
You also need to know when the law may hold you responsible for the damages induced by your dog. So, read on to explore more.
Note: This post is not intended to substitute legal advice for handling a dog bite situation.
Comprehending the Dog Bite Laws
Almost all states have clear legal rules describing the liability of a pet owner arising a bite by a dog. They may differ from one state to another. Thus, it is wise to find a proficient personal injury attorney and search valid contact information to know about the law details in the region where you live. Before knowing the laws, you need to know the standard of care.
Standard of Care
This is the first thing to consider for a dog bite case. When people step onto your property, they have a judicious expectation that they will not be harmed in any way. This is called the standard of care. In other words, the dog owners or the property occupiers must ensure relatively safe surroundings for all people.
In most cases, the owners owe a reasonable standard of care to anyone who entered lawfully into their property. Reasonable care means when the owners do not unreasonably expose others to threats while giving warning of unseen dangers that should have been known.
This duty covers sensibly foreseeable injuries induced by dogs. Further, in the case of reasonable care, the liability of a dog owner is not reliant on the knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities.
The injured person may be held partially liable in case she or he had put himself or herself in danger. This is termed contributory negligence. Although rare, this is the situation in which the dog is provoked to behave violently.
Generally, three legal principles are in effect to find out whether a pet owner is responsible for the injuries caused by your dog. These are one bite law, strict liability law, and negligence law. Let’s find out how these dog bite laws work.
One Bite Law
In many states such as New York and Georgia, you may not be held liable for the harm done by your pet’s first bite, provided you did not know that your dog will act aggressively. In other words, this means that your dog is spared for its first bite or other violent act against someone.
For instance, if your dog bites someone strolling past your driveway and then someone else in the same area. If you are in a state following the one-bite law, you may not be held liable for the harm caused to the first victim, provided you were ignorant about the incident.
Nevertheless, you are likely to be held liable for the injury caused to the second victim, as it occurred following the first one. However, there are exceptions here, which are as follows:
- No protection if you knew before the first bite that your dog exhibited dangerous propensities or must have known it, or your dog is habituated to act aggressively and hurt someone
- No protection if you are found guilty of violating some law or were careless with regards to the dog bite, such as not fence or keeping the gate open
Several states such as New Jersey and California follow this law when it is the matter of dog bites. According to this law, you as the dog owner are responsible for all injuries caused by your dog. This is regardless of whether you knew about the aggressive behavior of your pet or its past biting history. It also does not matter what you did to confine your dog or defend the public. The only exceptions wherein you are not responsible for dog bites are as follows:
- Someone or the victim who incited your pet to attack by abusing or hurting
- Trespassers or people who have come without your permission
In any state, you will be considered liable if your negligence contributed to a dog bite. This is regardless of the one-bite or strict liability law. Here, negligence refers to the sensibleness of an individual’s actions as per the encountered circumstances.
You may end up breaching the standard duty of care by not acting with proper care. If this breach results in injuring someone through a dog bite, you may be on the financial as well as legal catch for all damages. You are negligent if:
- Your fences or chains to confine your dog are not strong.
- Your dog roams free despite the local leash law.
- You know that your dog gets excited easily but fail to take action to protect others from your pet.
What Happens to Your Dog If It Bites Someone? Can They Take My Dog Away for Biting?
Depending on how the incident took place, your dog could be at risk. In some states, the law is such that the court may order to quarantine your dog.
This does not necessarily mean to remove the dog from your property; it may mean that you will be responsible for retaining your pet in the yard or indoors such that it cannot reach anybody. This measure is implemented in the majority of dog biting cases.
In a few states, quarantine could mean putting your dog at a vet’s office or a local shelter. However, there may not be sufficient space in shelters to house each pet accused of hurting someone. Thus, the officials allow the pet owners to retain their dogs at home, provided they comprehend the importance of keeping them indoors such that they do not go out of your property.
Typically, the period of quarantine depends on how long the officials take to investigate. It may be anywhere between a few weeks and six months.
What If My Dog Bites Someone on My Property UK?
In the United Kingdom, the dog bite laws are now strict. Freely allowing the pet to be seriously out of control on a public or private property is now a breach. In other words, a dog owner may be prosecuted if the pet attacks someone on an owned property, including the pub area and backyard.
The only exception here is when a dog bites someone, such as a burglar, who enters your home illegally. You have to ensure that your dog is not a menace for health staff, postal workers, delivery staff, and other professionals who may come to visit you.
It is not necessary for your dog to bite or physically injure a person for a felony to occur. If anyone feels that your dog may hurt someone, the pet may still be out of control. This is applicable, regardless of size, gender, type, and breed.
It is highly recommended to study the dog’s body language to know whether your pet is uncomfortable or not in specific situations at home, such as children visiting you or a delivery boy knocking the door. This will help you to train your furry friend to cope or shift it to a safe place while dealing with guests or visitors.
Why Do Dogs Have to Be Put Down after Biting Someone?
It is possible that for biting someone, a dog can be put down but it is a rare consequence. The decision to euthanize such a dog is taken only if there is an alarming history of hostility including many dog bites. It is taken only in extreme situations.
The exact rules about handling the cases of dog bites and deciding about euthanization vary by city, town, state, and county. Thus, it is crucial for all dog owners to comprehend the dog bite laws of the place where they reside. Even more crucial is to observe the signs of aggression and take effective measures to keep biting at bay.
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