Common Questions on the One Bite Rule for Dog Bites

Dog bites can be a serious matter. Every state has widely varying laws on the rights and responsibilities of dog owners. Many states have laws in place to protect people that experience personal injury from a dog attack or bite. However, many states also have laws that impede or make it more difficult to recover after being the victim of a dog attack. One such law that is seen in a lot of jurisdictions is the “One Bite Rule.” The One Bite Rule essentially shields a dog owner from liability in many instances unless there is a history of aggressive behavior or biting. This rule is often misunderstood, so it’s important to understand what it entails and how it works. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common questions about the One Bite Rule.

What is the One Bite Rule?

The idea behind the One Bite Rule is that a dog owner isn’t responsible for the harm caused by their dog unless they had “notice” of a history of aggression from that dog. After a single bite (or a history of aggression) from a dog, in many jurisdictions, if their dog subsequently attacks someone, the dog owner is deemed responsible for the subsequent attack. After a bite or attack, a dog may be characterized as a dangerous dog. Under the One Bite Rule, if a dog causes an injury and there is a history of biting or aggressive behavior, the dog owner is considered liable for the dog’s future actions.

The One Bite Rule does not mean that a dog is able to bite once without any repercussions. Owners can still be held liable for damage caused by a dog bite, depending on the circumstances. In states with strict liability, the owner of a dog (or the owner’s insurance company) will likely have to compensate the victim for medical expenses and other damages. Similarly, in some cases, previous bites don’t prove liability. For example, a trained guard dog biting someone trespassing or a dog that was provoked and bit someone may not be considered aggressive under the One Bite Rule.

What States Use the One Bite Rule?

A handful of states use the One Bite Rule exclusively or have it included in the dog-bite liability laws and practices. These include Alaska, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Dog Bite Laws in the District of Columbia

Washington, DC, is considered a mixed jurisdiction where the One Bite Rule comes into play, but it is not the only rule on dog bite liability. Section 8-1812 in the DC Code states that “If a dog injures a person while at large, lack of knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity standing alone shall not absolve the owner from a finding of negligence.”

Dog Bite Laws in Virginia

Virginia is a mixed jurisdiction as well that incorporates the One Bite Rule together with contributory negligence. These rules are based on how dog bite and dog-related injury cases have been handled in the state over the years. The application of the One Bite Rule means that if dogs have a history of dog bites or other behavior that can cause injuries, the owner has a duty to protect against those. If a dog has not injured or bitten someone before, an injured individual can still file a dog bite claim and seek to recover for their injuries, but they will need to demonstrate that the owner had a duty to use reasonable care to restrain the dog and that the owner’s failure to meet this responsibility caused the injury.

Dog Bite Laws in Maryland

Maryland similarly follows the “One Bite Rule,” which establishes strict liability. Maryland is a strict liability state which means that the dog owner is responsible for damages caused by a dog’s behavior if they knew the dog had the propensity to act dangerously or aggressively towards humans. However, you can also recover if you can prove the owner negligently managed or handled their dog.

Contact Us

If you were injured by a dog bite or dog attack in Washington, DC, Maryland, or Virginia, reach out to our dog bite attorneys for a free consultation. This area of the law can be very murky and fact-intensive. Our law firm can help you understand your state’s laws a bit more clearly, provide you with legal advice and help you find out if you have a viable claim.