Bad Dog – Dog Bites and Owner Liability

By | May 11, 2011

We’ve all been there – whether we had a paper route as a kid, we work as a mailman as an adult, or simply have taken a friendly neighborhood stroll once in a while, we’ve encountered a dog that didn’t particularly like us.  In fact, some of these dogs can really be quite scary, even if many of them are smaller dogs with barks that are clearly far worse than their bites.  But dogs are a common pet in these United States, and there is certainly no shortage of large and aggressive breeds, not to mention poor owners who don’t know how to handle or train them.  And when bad owners meet aggressive dogs, it can be a recipe for disaster.  It can, at the very least, be the recipe for you shouting out “bad dog!”Encountering a dog that really wants to bite you and isn’t just “bluffing” can lead not only to bodily injury, but some issues surrounding owner liability. In fact, if your injuries are bad enough, you might want to think about the local laws governing dog ownership in your area and see if the owner of the dog really is liable – because you might just be surprised to learn how liable the owner is and what that means for your medical bills. Although many bites might not be a big issue, you certainly shouldn’t have to tolerate any violence toward your person even if it’s from a dog. A bad owner is a bad owner, and you should listen to a lawyer before you listen to the bad owner. Let’s take an even closer look at the issue of dog bite liability and see if your injuries might require legal attention.

State Laws

First, it’s important to remember that dog ownership and liability laws will vary from state to state, and in some cases from community to community. That’s why this article can’t go into the individual details of dog liability laws – we’d just be telling you about laws that might not even apply in your area! But even with this in mind, it’s important to remember that dog liability laws will usually have some basic principles attached to them, and these principles are certainly general outlines you’ll want to be aware of.

Where Did the Bite Occur?

For example, consider the difference between you being on someone’s property and being bitten, and being bitten in a public area. The two different scenarios can have largely different legal ramifications – for example, being on someone’s property will often negate the damages you can receive as a result of injuries you’ve sustained. There’s simply no way to know what you were doing on the property without other evidence involved. Being bitten by a dog in a public area, however, means that the owner might be more liable because they’re responsible for containing and controlling their dog’s behavior – when they are unable to do so, they may be liable to the medical damages. After all, it’s not like the dog will have to pay out of pocket.

Owner Absent During Bite

It’s also important to remember that the dog’s owner might be liable for certain things even when they were not directly involved with what happened.  As an owner of a dog, you will take on certain responsibilities associated with the dog, just as any owner of any property will have to. Understanding that the person who is liable may not be who you initially thought was liable can be an important way to understand the individual case you’re facing.

Was the Law Broken?

Knowing the individual scenario you encountered, as well as the local laws, will be important as well.  Sometimes there is no liability on the part of the dog owner if the dog owner didn’t break any law. Certain laws regarding the governing of dog behavior will have different effects on your case, so you’ll want to find the law that pertains to your individual case; if the dog owner broke a law and is responsible for your injuries, then you’ve certainly got a strong case on your hands.


Other issues, like the dog owner’s negligence, can still mean that the dog owner is liable even though the individual scenario you encountered may not have made you think that way. The law might have different things to say about the issue than you or the dog owner would initially think, so understanding whether you have a case or not isn’t only about what you think about what happened: it’s about what the law says about what happened. That’s the legal system we live in, and these laws help govern our behaviors on a day-to-day basis; if they’re not honored, then there isn’t much point to the laws in the first place.

Dog ownership and negligence can have a dramatic impact on the case of being bitten by a dog; and if you’re bitten by a dog, you should certainly start looking into the law and even consult a lawyer to see if you have a case.  You don’t want to let a bad dog owner get away with being a bad dog owner, after all, and no one who loves animals would want that, either. That’s part of the reason it’s important to make sure you seek damages, but it’s also important that you do it for yourself: you can’t let people – or animals – treat you in a way you don’t want to be treated. Whether you’re talking about animal or people behavior, that’s one personal rule you never want to violate.

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