Can You Sue Someone If Their Dog Bites You?

If you have experienced personal injury resulting from a dog attack, you may be able to benefit from pursuing legal action with a personal injury attorney. But can you sue someone if their dog bites you? Dog owners are often responsible for injuries caused by their dogs. If you live in a place with a state law where dog owners are under strict liability, they are generally liable in all dog bite cases except when the victim is caught trespassing or breaking the law in some way during the incident. In other places, the dog owner could respond that the victim provoked the dog. They could say they risked getting hurt voluntarily or were injured due to their own carelessness.

Here are some rules that, when broken, will likely result in successful dog bite claims. A dog bite claim is worth pursuing in order to compensate for disfigurement, scarring, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and serious injuries, as well as medical bills. A personal injury attorney can help you obtain a settlement or verdict against the dog owner’s insurance carrier to help with medical care, emergency room costs, and surgery if there is disfigurement or serious injury.

One-Bite Rule

The “one-bite rule” is a rule where any dog owners or homeowners who knew of a prior danger their dog could pose before an accident or injury may be held liable. If their dog has caused serious injury before, has shown a propensity for violence before, or has been in a dog bite case, then a second offense makes an injury claim more likely to succeed. Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia all generally follow the “one bite” rule, with exceptions. Learn more about the One-Bite Rule here.

Strict Liability vs. Contributory Negligence

The concept of strict liability is one where a party is liable for their actions regardless of the intentions of a victim. States with a strict liability law might require that victims of dog bites receive a settlement unless they committed a crime. If the victim was trespassing or causing property damage, there would be a possible exemption from strict liability, or if a victim abused a dog or provoked it by threatening its owners or their loved ones, it may also not fall under strict liability. Contributory negligence means that if a victim did anything that possibly contributed to their injury from a dog bite, the owner might not be held liable.

Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia do not follow “strict liability,” but rather, the victim must prove the owner was negligent. In these jurisdictions, there are also “contributory negligence” laws, meaning that if the victim’s negligence contributed to the injury in any way, they cannot hold anyone liable for the injuries. Because of this, it is critical to speak with an attorney before speaking with an insurance company about your claim.

Negligent Dog Owners

If the owner of the dog is shown to be negligent, they will be liable for your damages. Some examples include if they weren’t taking care of their dog carefully enough (e.g., off-lease dogs, dogs in a yard with no fence, etc.). If their negligence resulted in dog bite injuries, injury victims could be entitled to compensation. Depending on the breed of dog, owners may even be liable regardless of negligence.

Legal Advice

Victims of dog bites should seek out a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. Calling ahead can help establish a good attorney-client relationship. Personal injury cases are most effective if you seek out an experienced attorney. Tell your attorney if you have experienced emotional trauma, if you have any medical expenses, and what other damages may have resulted from being attacked or bitten by a dog. You can check out our article on finding a good personal injury attorney here.

A good dog bite lawyer should be experienced with dog bite laws and dog bite lawsuits. For a free consultation about your case, we encourage any dog bite victims to contact us so that one of our dog bite attorneys can help them get the justice they deserve.