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My Dog Bit Someone. What now?

Dog bite laws in the United States vary significantly by state and local jurisdiction. If your dog bites someone, you may be held liable for the dog bite incident. The bite victim can sue you for the damages incurred, and depending on the circumstances of your case, they might take civil and criminal action.

In some states, dog owners are held strictly liable if their dog bites someone, regardless of whether it was the first bite or if they knew of the dog’s aggressive behavior. 

In other states, the one-bite rule prevents dog owners from being liable for their dog’s behavior as long as it cannot be proven that they were negligent or knowledgeable of their dogs’ aggressive behavior. 

These dog bite laws are also influenced by other circumstances, such as whether your dog falls under any additional breed-specific legislation and local ordinances, the severity of the injuries, if the dog bite victim provoked the dog, and other crucial case details. A dog bite lawyer can help you assess the situation of your case and guide you throughout the legal proceedings. Contact the Agruss Law Firm, LLC, for a free consultation to learn more. Here is everything you need to know about dog bites, laws, regulations, preventing dog bites, and more.

Dog Biting Tail

Dog Bite Laws and Regulations

Dog bite laws and regulations vary by state and local jurisdictions. For example, states such as Illinois, New York, and California all follow a strict liability system regarding dog bites. If your dog bit someone on public property or an area where the victim was legally allowed and caused injury, you can be held liable for the dog bite incident and the damages, such as medical expenses and others under Illinois Dog Bite Law.

Dog biting isn’t always a prerequisite for a legal claim to be filed against you. In some states, it is enough for the dog to threaten someone to make victims eligible for legal action. 

This is because some individuals are afraid of dogs, and if their panic and fear trigger some of their preexisting conditions or worsen them, you can be held liable for the intangible damage. They do not need to prove negligence on your part to sue. However, if the victim was trespassing on private property, ignored warning signs, or provoked the dog in any way, you have the right to contest their claim.

This can sometimes help you get reduced charges or escape liability altogether. In Illinois, for example, the state follows a modified comparative negligence system. Dog bite victims who share culpability can lose their right to pursue damages for the dog attack if they are assigned more than 50% fault.

New York follows a pure comparative negligence system, meaning a dog bite victim can recover damages even if they are 99% at fault for the injury. In California, the same situation applies as it is also a pure comparative negligence state. Victims can pursue a personal injury claim against you in these states by pursuing a claim in the following legal timeframes:

  • In New York, dog bite victims must pursue a claim within three years of the dog bite
  • In Illinois, the statute of limitations for dog bites is two years 
  • in California, an injured person must pursue a claim within two years

One Bite States

States such as Mississippi and North Carolina follow the one-bite rule. In this type of dog bite regulation, the injured party cannot hold the dog’s owner liable for their damages unless they can prove negligence. However, local ordinances, negligence standards, and breed-specific legislation can override this rule in certain circumstances.

If an investigative process into the dog’s history and the circumstances of the case reveals that the owner did not have any prior knowledge of their dog’s aggressive tendencies they might not be held liable.

However, even a good dog with a history of good behavior might be labeled as dangerous or potentially dangerous by local authorities. The dog owner might have to take some level of responsibility to prevent future incidents. Once a dog is classified as dangerous, the owner will not be able to escape liability for a second biting incident. Owners might also need to adhere to additional requirements once their pet is designated as dangerous, such as:

  • Acquire special licensing for the dog and register it.
  • Have liability coverage insurance. An insurance company might not cover certain dog breeds or have high rates depending on the breed in question, which can further complicate proceedings.
  • Secure enclosures. 
  • Euthanize the dog if it becomes more aggressive.

Dog bite law is complex, but a lawyer can help you determine how local ordinances and dog-breed legislation could affect your case. Once it is classified as a dangerous dog, your canine best friend can be taken away from you or euthanized by authorities if you do not adhere to the local regulations and imposed restrictions. Learn more about the most dangerous dogs around and how they are perceived in dog bite cases.

Small Dog Biting A Persons leg

Responsibilities of Dog Owners and Legal Liabilities

Dog owners have several responsibilities that they must adhere to depending on what type of dog they have and the applicable rules and legislation of the region where they live. Dog ownership irresponsibility can contribute to dog bites, fatal attacks, breed discrimination, and many legal consequences. As a dog owner, you have a duty of care to prevent your pet from harming others, including other dogs or animals.  Here are some dog owner responsibilities and ways to ensure good dog behavior:

Responsible Training

Dogs bite no matter the breed and most dogs require professional training to ensure obedience. You can encourage good behavior through proper training and positive reinforcement.

However, if you regularly punish your pet, they will feel threatened and might become fearful and aggressive. Because of this, positive reinforcement is preferred in dog training. If you cannot manage training your dog on your own, you can always get the help of a professional trainer. 

A professional trainer can also help you with muzzle training, behavior modification, and socialization to decrease the chances of the dog biting someone in the future or engaging in a fight with other animals, which also falls under the owner’s liability. It’s important to begin training your dog from an early age as they will learn faster.

Proper Socialization & Supervision

What will your pet do if an unknown dog or stranger approaches you or you take them to an unfamiliar place? Will they remain calm or become aggressive? Socialization is a key aspect of dog bite prevention, and owners are responsible for it.

Socialization means preparing your dog to deal with other animals, pets, people, and environments. A dog’s life shouldn’t be limited only to your property’s fence. You will have to take them for regular walks, family trips, or dog parks. Also, your pet must be supervised, especially around a small child.

Vaccination & Veterinary Care

Certain dog breeds, especially purebreds, are more susceptible to disease and illnesses than others. Health conditions can make a dog dangerous as they might feel vulnerable or be in pain and attack in response.

In many states, animal control protocols dictate how soon dogs need to be vaccinated and against what. For example, rabies vaccination is mandatory in the majority of U.S. states. 

In New York, rabies vaccination must be performed once the dog is four months old, and this also applies to Illinois, Florida, and other states. Rabies is not only deadly to dogs but also to humans and can result in death. Dog owners must regularly take their pets to veterinarian check-ups, not just because of the rabies vaccine but also to ensure good health or discover anything out of the ordinary. Certain undetected medical conditions can alter a dog’s behavior and promote aggressiveness. 

Adherence to General Dog Laws

Each state has its own general set of dog laws that ensures the safety of other animals and people and establishes the legal liabilities of dog owners who breach these rules. In cases where a dog bites someone, the charges can extend beyond civil liabilities and become criminal offenses. As previously mentioned, a mandatory vaccination rabies is an example of such a law, but each state might have different requirements. For example, in states such as Wisconsin, the mandatory rabies vaccination must be performed at five months of age.

Some legislations in certain states also mandate that dog owners must display a dog tag that showcases their vaccination status. You must keep your dog on a leash while walking on public property but the leash, in most instances, shouldn’t be longer than six feet. This is to ensure control. 

Large dogs or dogs considered dangerous must be muzzled, and dog owners should place warning signs on their property if they have a dangerous dog. Fencing requirements also differ from state to state, but generally, dog owners can use a six-foot-high fence.

Depending on the dog’s history or breed, local ordinances might prevent you from unleashing your dog even in off-leash dog parks. You might need special permission to own a dangerous dog, such as a pit bull, rottweiler, or a wolf-hybrid. The pets must be registered with local authorities. Housing associations can also impose certain rules and restrictions for dog owners, if not on breed, then on size and weight.

Failure to comply with dog laws can result in fines or even imprisonment, depending on the circumstances of your case and what laws were broken. If your dog bites someone, you will be held financially and legally liable for all the ensuing damages. In one-bite states, the dog’s history will be thoroughly investigated to determine the owner’s negligence or the dog’s previous aggressive behavior.

Dog Biting A Persons Leg

Understanding Dog Behaviour: Warnings Signs

Dog bites can be prevented in some cases if the owners can recognize warning signs. For example, suppose you notice any behavior that is unusual for your pet. In that case, they might be experiencing some health issues that can make them more defensive or aggressive and contribute to a dog bite incident.

Seek veterinary medical attention to address the issue or find a trainer to help you with behavior modification if the issue is unrelated to health. Some dog behavior and warning signs that dog owners should be wary about include:

  • Dog growls and aggressive barking
  • Direct eye contact or avoiding eye contact. This warning sign may indicate that the dog is stressed or feeling threatened.
  • Biting excessively during play and disobeying commands
  •  Body stiffness and raised fur
  • Flattened or raised ears or excessive yawning or lip-licking

All of these signs might be present before the dog bites someone, but if a dog owner recognizes them, they might be able to take action before the situation escalates.

Steps to Take Immediately After a Dog Bite Incident

If your dog bites someone or another pet, what you do during the incident can increase or decrease your culpability. Here are some of the steps you should take:

Help The Victim Get Medical Attention

Remain calm, and if you can, provide the injured party with first aid and encourage them to seek medical attention. Contact emergency services because prompt medical care will ensure that the dog bite victim will receive the necessary treatment for their dog bite injury and you can offer to cover any reasonable medical expenses.

Secure and Contain the Dog

The person bitten must be kept away from the pet to avoid further biting. Restrain your dog and keep it confined or muzzled until you consult a veterinarian or Dog bite lawyer. If your pet continues to bite the victim, remember that you have to use all the necessary means to ensure the victim’s safety and your own, not the dog’s.

Document the Incident

The injured party has the right to gather evidence and document the incident as much as you do. Do not interfere with the victim’s documentation or you could face criminal charges for obstructing an investigation.

Document the incident just as the victim does. Take photos of the dog bite injury and write down when, where, and how it occurred. Exchange contact information with the victim and possible eyewitnesses and gather all relevant evidence.

If your dog bit someone that provoked them and the bite occurred in the presence of surveillance cameras, you can use the footage in your case.

Dog Biting A Shoe Indoors

Reporting the Incident to Local Animal Control Authorities & Law Enforcement

Depending on your location, you must report the dog bite incident to your local law enforcement or animal control authorities. Provide complete cooperation with the investigation and legal proceedings that will follow. The police report will contain information that will affect your case.

For example, they will note whether or not you helped the victim with first aid or contacted emergency services. They will also write down an assessment on your cooperation level or if you were evasive or tried to hinder the investigation. Your attempts to control the dog will also be considered. If you admit prior knowledge of your dog’s aggressive behavior, you can undermine your dog bite regulations defense in regions that follow the one-bite rule system.

Report the Incident to Your Insurance Company

If the dog bite occurred in the owner’s home, the dog owner should also report the incident to their insurance company regardless of whether the victim was trespassing or had a legal right to be there. Your home or renter’s insurance policy might cover dog bite liability claims.

Consulting With a Dog Bite Lawyer

When your dog bites someone, you can face both civil and criminal charges depending on the circumstances of your case. Regardless of whether the other party takes legal action or not, it is always advisable to consult an experienced dog bite attorney.

A dog bite lawyer can advise you on your legal rights and responsibilities. Navigating dog bite laws can be challenging as they are complex but with a lawyer by your side, you can ensure that you take the right steps to protect yourself and your pet. 

Depending on your state or local dog bite laws, you might need to adhere to additional requirements for maintaining ownership after a dog bite incident. In some cities, the dog must undergo a quarantine period, for example. 

The quarantine period is meant to assess rabies symptoms in a certain number of days. A physician who specializes in dog attack wounds will asses the dog’s health and behavior, review vaccination history, and perform diagnostic tests to determine if the dog has rabies.

Other requirements that you may be subjected to include providing proof of insurance or euthanizing the dog if it is considered a threat. Contact Dog Bite Laws, for a free consultation to learn more about dog bite laws and have your case evaluated.

Dog Trying To Bite A Hand

Understanding The Victim’s Rights and Potential Legal Actions

Citizens have a right to conduct their business on public property without fear that they will suffer a dog bite. They are entitled to compensation for dog bites if they did not provoke the biting or had a legal right to be on private property.

Since dog owners are the ones who must ensure safety, they are liable for the biting incident. A victim can pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the owner to recover damages and the owner can also face criminal charges in certain circumstances.

Civil Liability

In civil liability cases, dog owners can face a civil negligence claim if they fail to exercise reasonable care in controlling or restraining their dogs. States that follow strict liability do not require the victim to prove negligence to pursue damages and the dog’s prior history of aggression will not matter. When owners know their dog is aggressive, they must warn and protect others.

Criminal Charges

Dog bites can result in criminal charges. Dogs that are designated as dangerous or vicious and bite another party might result in criminal penalties for the owner. If the owner’s conduct is negligent or reckless in handling the dog and it results in a biting incident, they can also be criminally liable. In some states, violation of leash laws, failing to report the dog bite incident to local authorities, or obstructing or tampering with evidence can also result in criminal charges.

The Role of Animal Control and Law Enforcement in Dog Bite Cases

Animal control agencies usually investigate bite incidents. Based on the circumstances of the case, they can impose penalties on owners or label the particular dog as dangerous or vicious, which will subject them to other requirements to ensure safety. These penalties can include fines, quarantine, or euthanization. 

Law enforcement agencies also investigate dog bite incidents when serious injuries occur. They will investigate if the dog has a history of aggression, take note of the owner’s behavior and actions when the attack occurred, and conduct a report, which will play a crucial role in legal proceedings.

Factors Influencing Liability and Potential Defenses

Many factors in dog bite cases can influence liability and potential defenses. Some aspects that can increase liability include:

  • The dog’s prior history of aggression 
  • The victim’s actions or inactions during the dog attack 
  • Whether the owner took reasonable precautions, especially if other local ordinances or breed-specific legislation apply to the case

In states that follow the one-bite rule, dogs that bite strangers or other animals do not immediately put their owner in legal trouble. Victims must prove that the owner was negligent in the handling of their dog or failed to warn them.

The defense in such situations depends on what the victim does. Dog owners must prove that they exercised reasonable care in preventing dog bites, placed warning signs, followed off-leash, muzzle, fencing, or vaccination laws, and did not know about their dog’s aggressive tendencies. Suppose the victim provoked the dog or was trespassing. In that case, the defense can be centered on proving the violations through witness statements, video footage, the dog’s history of good behavior, and other evidence.

Of course, every potential defense strongly depends on the unique circumstances of your case. Consult with a dedicated dog bite lawyer to learn more and determine what legal strategies can be used to diminish your culpability and improve your defense.

Dog Bites and Potential Injuries

Dogs can inflict serious injury when biting. A biting force of over 230 pounds-per-square-inch (psi) can shatter or break bones. Some common dog injuries in dog attacks include:

  • Tendon and nerve damage and other soft tissue damage
  • Puncture wounds and scarring
  • Bone damage, including fractures
  • Traumatic brain injury (especially if the attack results in a fall)
  • Infections, or the spread of diseases and illnesses such as tetanus or rabies
Dog Biting A Fake Hand

Compensation Options for the Victim and Financial Implications for the Dog Owner

Dog bite victims can pursue compensation from the owner through the dog owner’s liability insurance, homeowner’s insurance, or a personal injury lawsuit. The financial implications for dog owners include raised insurance rates and the financial consequences of paying for the legal fees, medical expenses, and other damages ensuing from the incident. 

If criminal charges are pursued, the owner will face various consequences and financial burdens. Everything depends on the severity of the injuries, the recovery time of the victim, and how the incident affected their life. Comparative negligence laws will also determine the financial implications for dog owners. Victims can pursue economic, non-economic, and in some states, punitive damages in their dog bite claims.

Economic Damages

Economic damages in dog bite claims refer to tangible monetary losses that a victim suffers as a result of the incident. Victims can pursue compensation for their past, present, and future medical expenses, treatments, pain and suffering, lost wages, and reduced earning capacity. 

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages in dog bite claims refer to intangible losses. Dogs that severely injured a victim physically may have also hurt them on a psychological level. For example, victims can pursue compensation for their emotional anguish, anxiety, trauma, or the development of mental disorders such as PTSD or cynophobia. Scarring, disfigurement, or long-lasting injury pain and the associated suffering can also be compensated for.

Punitive Damages

In instances where the actions of a dog owner were particularly negligent, egregious, or willful, victims can also pursue punitive damages. These damages are a form of punishment and are meant to deter similar behavior in the future.

Wrongful Death in Dog Bite Cases

Some dog bite attacks can result in death, which means compensation for the surviving family members of the victim for their funerary costs, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and other damages. Death does not necessarily occur from the bite, but from the transmission of a disease, such as rabies.

If a victim’s health is precarious or they do not receive immediate medical care for their injury, the bite can be fatal. A physician will usually determine from the wound tissue and other tests whether or not a dog bite victim contracted a disease. 

The dog owner can face both civil and criminal charges for a fatal dog attack, especially if they failed to adhere to vaccination laws and it contributed to the fatality.

Seeking Legal Representation and the Importance of Consulting an Attorney

Seeking legal representation after a dog bite is crucial. Both victims and dog owners should consult a dog bite lawyer to navigate the legal complexities of dog bite claims and ensure the best possible outcome.

A dog bite attorney can help dog bite victims and dog owners by gathering evidence, negotiating settlements to avoid escalating the case to court proceedings or advocating for the rights of clients by representing them in litigation cases.

At Dog Bite Laws, we represent dog owners and injured clients alike in dog bite cases. We seek to help clients reach favorable outcomes and pursue justice for their cases. Contact our law firm for a free consultation to learn more about your case’s applicable laws and legislations and what you can do to start or defend your claim.

Preventive Measures and Responsible Dog Ownership

Dogs are protective and lovable pets. On our website, Dogbitelaws, we provide legal representation and aim to educate dog owners and victims about their rights and the importance of responsible dog ownership, including training, socialization, and containment of dogs. 

Preventive measures can help dog owners and victims avoid unwanted incidents and the associated legal and financial consequences. Dog bite prevention measures extend beyond dog owners and victims and help our canine friends. 

Many dogs are abused due to their public perception of being dangerous, sometimes being wrongfully classified as such. This often occurs in dog breeds rather than individual dogs. By enacting responsible dog ownership, citizens can also help combat breed discrimination and abuse.

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