Dog Bite Liability

At some point in time just about everyone will have an experience with a dog that bites them. Be aware that every state has a different dog bite liability law.

To say that every state has its own dog bite laws and none of them seem to have too much in common, except the outcome (the bite), is a bit of an understatement. In most cases the existing laws happen to be a mish mash of statutory law, city ordinances, common law, case law and county ordinances. Despite the general over all confusion, most of the laws may be divided into one of two categories – the strict liability rule and/or the one bite rule.

You may have heard of the one bite rule, as many people are familiar with the expression, “The first bite is free.” What this means is that the owner can’t be held liable for injuries caused by his dog’s bite, as long as the owner wasn’t negligent in controlling the dog. As you may imagine, this would be an area wide open for dispute by both parties in such a case. Call it the “he said, she said” rule of dog bite lawsuits.

There are other things that come into play in cases like this. Aside from the negligence issues, the owner must not have allowed the dog to run loose in a public location and they need to be aware of their dog’s “propensity” to be dangerous. This too is a landmine area, as many owners deny their animal would hurt anyone – even if their dog isn’t an angel – when faced with proof showing otherwise.

How do people realize or recognize that their dog has a tendency to be vicious/dangerous? In most instances, there are signals that owners should be able to spot as being problematic. For instance, their dog snaps at other people or animals, or they put a muzzle on their dog. A muzzle, however, isn’t always indicative of an aggressive dog as some owners muzzle their dogs to stop them from eating sticks, etc. It’s a logical conclusion that the dog is likely dangerous if the owner makes it a point to tell others their dog is an attack dog or mentions their dog bites.

When it comes to the strict liability rules, this is a different can of worms. Strict liability, which is also called scienter (knowingly), says the owner is responsible for a dog bite injury whether or not the bite was the first, since they own the animal. In simpler terms, it means the owner owns the dog (legally) and therefore is responsible for it, which would include being responsible for its behavior.

Of course there are some exceptions to this strict liability rule as well, and if you are in a dog bite situation, it’s better to talk to a competent attorney about your case, rather than second guess what the law may or may not be.

Robert Webb is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer with Webb & D’Orazio. To learn more about Atlanta personal injury lawyer, Atlanta personal injury, Atlanta business law, Atlanta criminal defense visit,

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