Approximately 333,700 United States citizens were treated for dog bites at emergency rooms in 2001. In 2008, emergency room patients owed an average $18,700 for each hospital stay. Dog bites can cause minor flesh wounds; however, they often progress into debilitating conditions brought on by serious complications, which can ultimately lead to loss of income, rising medical bills and anxiety, pain, suffering and stress. Dog bite claims are a special section of personal injury law and can result in the determination of strict liability. Following are some of the common components of dog bite claims:
Strict liability: Negligence, which is behavior that does not meet the legal standard of protection against harm, is an important component of personal injury cases. Under strict liability law, the plaintiff does not have to prove the owner of the animal was negligent; just that the owner’s dog caused the injury. Despite this, some situations, such as provocation or trespassing, may make the plaintiff responsible for their own bite.
Provocation: The plaintiff may not have a case if the animal was provoked. Provocation includes teasing, taunting, poking or trespassing on private property.
Breach of duty: This area of dog bite claims is rather complex. State statutory law and common laws intersect to determine the liability of the owner. In some states, the owner’s knowledge of previous bites may be central to a case. In other state, specifically those with strict liability laws, owner knowledge is a moot point. Breach of duty can include a number of things, including failure to control an animal on a leash, failure to properly secure the animal or failure to entrust the animal to a responsible party.
Ultimately, the decision of the court is based on state statutory law, common law and the details of the situation. Furthermore, the establishment of negligence on the part of the owner is equally important.