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What Is the “One Bite Rule” for Dogs?

Dog bite regulations vary from state to state but most dog bite victims or owners will encounter two legal doctrines: strict liability states and one-bite states. In strict liability states, dog owners are held liable for dog bites without needing the victim to prove negligence. In the one-bite rule, dog owners have one free bite before facing consequences. 

But what is the one-bite rule? Does it mean that a victim can’t pursue a claim against a negligent dog owner for the bite? Absolutely not. The one-bite rule legal doctrine does not defend negligent dog owners but instead puts the burden of proof on the shoulders of the victim. 

This means that even under the one-bite rule, victims can seek justice and hold negligent dog owners accountable. It’s important to note that the one-bite rule can be undermined by various factors, including breed-specific legislation, and local ordinances. 

To better understand dog bite laws and if local ordinances or breed-specific legislations apply to your case, consult a dog bite lawyer. At Dog Bite Laws, we are committed to serving dog bite victims and owners to create a safer community for everyone. If you have been involved in a dog attack or wish to learn more about dog bite laws applicable to your case, contact our law office for a free consultation and let a dedicated personal injury lawyer help you.

Dog Biting A Persons Hand

Understanding the One-Bite Law For Both Dog Owners and Victims

One bite states follow the reasoning that if a domestic animal has shown no prior signs of aggression, has been properly trained and socialized, and has a positive history of good behavior overall, it is unlikely to bite someone, which is why it is allowed one free bite. 

However, victims of animal bites can still pursue a claim against the owner. If the victim can prove that the owner knew about their dog’s aggressive behavior or should have known about it, they can be held liable. In strict liability states like New York, victims do not need to prove this. Owners bear the burden of strict liability regardless of their prior knowledge of their dog’s aggressive tendencies. 

The free pass allocated in one bite rule states is only available for the first incident and cannot be used again in a second dog bite case, even if the victims differ. Therefore, dog owners can be held strictly liable for animal bite injuries if they have a prior history of aggression.

Once someone’s pet bites another party a second time, they have no excuse for their ignorance. The pet might be classified as a dangerous dog and the owner must comply with several additional precautions to prevent a second dog bite. They will be treated the same as in a strictly liable state despite the one-bite rule and can also be subjected to criminal charges.

States that follow the one-bite rule include North Carolina and Mississippi. Illinois dog bite law transitioned from a one-bite system to a strict liability system. New York also previously followed the one-bite rule system.

Factors That Can Undermine the One Bite Rule

If your dog bites another person in a one-bite rule state, you might face strict liability if certain factors are present. For example, in some states, such as North Carolina, statutory exceptions override or limit the one-bite rule.

Dog attacks committed by dangerous dogs are defined by the legislature and do not get the free pass if the dog bite victim suffers severe dog bite injuries. The strict liability doctrine applies despite the one-bite rule since the animal’s owner already knew that their dog was classified as dangerous and failed to take the necessary precautions to ensure safety.

A dog owner in a one-bite state can also face strict liability for dog bites if the dog bite occurred in a dog park where their dog breed was prohibited from being off-leash. Lastly, a dog owner can face strict liability for dog bites if, during the animal attack, they fail to restrain and control their dog. 

Several other negligence rules and factors can contribute to strict liability in one-bite states depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, state laws, local ordinances, and breed-specific legislation. Contact a personal injury attorney to learn more about dog bite laws, your legal options, mounting a defense, or pursuing a fair settlement for the injuries caused by the dog attack.

Two Dogs Destroying a pillow

Elements of a Dog Bite Case

Regardless of whether dog attacks occur on public property or private property, the owner is liable if the dog bite victim can prove the following:

  • The bites were caused by the pet of the dog owner in question. This can be proved through witness statements, animal control and police reports, photographs, and videos
  • The owner knew about the aggressive behavior of their dog. The owner’s knowledge and failure to take necessary precautions will make them strictly liable
  • If the harm caused is severe, your state might have a law that enables you to pursue a dog bite claim, even if this is the first time the dog has bitten someone.

The Liability of a Dog Owner 

Dog owner liability can sometimes extend to property owners or landlords. In general, dog owners are responsible for preventing dog bites through proper training, socialization, and by following the common law of keeping their dogs confined, leashed, muzzled, and in some cases, vaccinated.

The leash law usually states that dog owners must always keep their dogs on a leash while walking on public property except for dog parks or other designated areas where off-leash is permitted. Leash laws differ from state to state but generally, a six-foot length should be the maximum limit to exercise sufficient control over the dog and prevent dog bites.

Yet dog owners still have a responsibility to research local laws, ordinances, and breed-specific legislation to understand if their specific dog breed is allowed off-leash, even in dog parks.

If they do not post warning signs alerting visitors to the presence of a dangerous dog on their premises, they can face strict liability even on private property. Dog owners have a duty of care to ensure the safety of others and the breach of this duty can make them liable for the ensuing damages.

Defenses Against Dog Bite Claims

If a dog bite victim takes legal action against a dog owner in a one-bite state, the owner has several ways to defend themselves against the accusations. Some of the most common defenses in dog bite claims are:

  • The injured person was trespassing on the dog owner’s property
  • The victim provoked the dog on the dog owner’s property or in a public space
  • The owner took reasonable steps to control the dog or the injuries were not inflicted by their dog

Since dog attacks fall under personal injury law, depending on your state’s comparative negligence system doctrine, you can pay reduced damages or have your charges dismissed by proving fault. Learn more by consulting with a dog bite lawyer serving your area.

Compensation for Dog Bite Victims

Dog bite victims can pursue compensation from the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance, liability insurance, or a personal injury lawsuit. Dog bite compensation can include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, depending on the circumstances of the case.

This can include compensation for past, present, and future medical expenses, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, PTSD, mental anguish, and more. An attorney focusing on dog bite law can help injured victims understand exactly what they might be entitled to.

Person Holding Dog On A Leash

Steps to Take After a Dog Bite Incident

When someone is injured due to a dog attack, they should take the following steps:

Seek Medical Attention

The victim should get emergency service and receive immediate medical care, especially since dog bites can transmit diseases. The dog owner should restrain their dog to prevent further injury and provide first aid. If you are the dog owner, you should offer to pay the medical bills.

Gather Evidence

Both parties have the right to gather evidence while at the attack scene and exchange contact information. The victim and the owner should take photos of the injuries and get the contact information of eyewitnesses. 

Report the Incident

The dog attack incident must be reported to local law enforcement and animal control authorities. Failure to do so by the dog owner can result in fines and other consequences. The owner must also report the incident to their insurance company. 

Consult a Dog Bite Attorney

Both the victim and owner can consult a dog bite attorney to better understand their legal options, dog bite laws, and other aspects of their case. 

Importance of Seeking Legal Representation

A dedicated dog bite lawyer can help dog bite victims or owners navigate the complex legal landscape, investigate the incident, and advocate for their rights and best interests. Dog bite attorneys can also negotiate with insurance companies so that the parties can reach a fair resolution. However, a dog-bite lawyer will also help clients with legal representation if a lawsuit is unavoidable or preferable. Contact Dog Bite Laws, if you require legal support for dog bite cases.

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