Many people love their dogs and feel as if they are loyal companions, and even consider them members of the family. Unfortunately, man’s best friend can sometimes turn into an enemy. Laws are in place which put specific responsibilities upon dog owners if their pets attack and cause injury to others.
Dog owners may be held responsible for damages if:
- A dog has displayed prior dangerous tendencies
- The dog belongs to an inherently vicious or dangerous breed
- The injury was sustained on the dog owner’s property
The One Bite Rule vs. Actual Law
People traditionally say that there is a “one bite rule.” This means that the dog owner is not responsible for their pet’s “first bite” if the dog has never bitten anyone before. However, laws may be different and may state that an owner or caretaker of a dog is responsible for any injuries it causes if the owner knew that the animal had been vicious, violent, or dangerous in the past.
A dog’s owner or a person who is responsible for it (a caretaker or keeper), is legally liable for the dog’s behavior if the dog demonstrated danger to humans in the past. This behavior is not limited to just a prior bite. It can also include other demonstrations of vicious behavior, such as attempting to bite or attack a person. Additionally, dangerous behavior is not limited to attacks by the companion animal, but may also include what courts consider mischievous behavior—the dog may only be playing, but it is in a way that is dangerous to human beings.
Vicious and Dangerous Propensities
The common law “vicious or dangerous propensities” standard typically applies no matter where a dog bite occurs. A dog owner may be held liable for attacks which happen on the owner’s property, regardless of having no prior dangerous tendencies. This is often referred to as the “milkman” or “meter man” statute.
People in certain professions may be attacked by a canine while legally on an owner’s property. A person may be merely delivering a package, checking an electric or water meter, or visiting with the dog’s owner. However, the owner may be held responsible for any medical bills or lost earnings a victim suffers from an attack.
If you or a loved one suffered a bite from a dog or another animal attack, seek a personal injury attorney in your local area who has extensive knowledge and experience with dog bite cases. Although the lawyers themselves may love animals, they recognize that keeping or caregiving a dog comes with significant responsibilities. Owners of vicious, violent, or dangerous animals, or of dogs which belong to what are considered ferocious breeds, should understand their responsibility and take the appropriate measures to prevent their pets from injuring others.
If you need to hold a dog owner or caregiver liable for your injuries after a dog attack, contact a personal injury lawyer in Salt Lake City, Utah to set up a consultation to discuss your rights and the dog owner’s responsibilities.
Thanks to Rasmussen & Miner for their insight into personal injury claims and responsibility for dog attacks.