Regardless of where you are, there are laws that require a pet owner to be responsible for the injury or damage their animal causes. Most follow the “one free bite” rule, or where owners aren’t legally liable until a dog makes a second attack. Other states say regardless of the attack, the owner is legally responsible. Dog bites are a common personal injury claim made in the US.

Preventing and Dealing with Injuries by Dogs

There are a few simple ways for a dog owner to prevent their animal from causing injury. It is important to train your dog to be social and to make sure they do not run around freely all of the time. Make sure all vaccinations are current to prevent further devastation if diseases were added to the bite. Also post signs that you have a dog on your property and watch your dog around children or strangers. At the end of the day, a bite can be prevented by careful behavior by you.

Dog Owner Liability

In most dog bite situations, the owner is liable if just one of three events happen. If the owner knew that the dog was likely to inflict injury or bite, this is considered the “one-bite rule”. In this scenario, the victim has to be able to show that the dog actually posed a threat.

Another situation that causes the owner to be liable is when they are unfairly neglectful to their animal, causing a lack of control.

The third is dependent on some state laws that determine the owner is legally responsible for the dog in the majority of situations, regardless of the owner or dog’s threat level.

Compensating Someone Injured by a Dog

When having to compensate a victim of a dog bite, an owner may have to cover the medical bills, property damage, any income that was lost, and be responsibility for pain and suffering. If the owner is known for extreme conduct or dangerous behavior, they may be liable for punitive damages.

Some homeowner’s insurance companies will cover dog bites depending on the circumstances and breed of the dog. When or if an owner or insurance company will not settle the issue with a victim, in most cases they will bring the case to small claims court.

‘Dangerous Dog’ or ‘Vicious Dog’ Laws

There are specific laws and restrictions when it comes to dangerous dogs or even breeds considered vicious. The declaration is made when a complaint is filed by animal control and a ruling is made officially in court on whether a dog is dangerous. If it is, certain actions will be taken to put a stop to any dangerous behavior by the animal. By not following the court’s rulings, the owner subjects themselves to legal action while the animal could possibly be put down.

There are various restrictions put on dogs that are labeled dangerous. These include everything from posting signs to notify those in the general area, ensuring the dog is in an enclosed area, or even having the dog sterilized. In the rare event that a dangerous dog proceeds to injure or kill a person, there are severe criminal penalties for the owners including imprisonment or fines.

When Veterinarians or Other Professionals are Injured

Those who hold jobs where they handle all sorts of animals and knowingly risk injury on a daily basis are not able to sue an owner if they are injured while handling the animal. If the fact that the animal is dangerous is hidden from the vet, however, legal action may be able to be pursued. While the vet is under no obligation to treat any animal, once they do agree to do so and stop during the act, it could be considered malpractice.

Injuries to Dogs

The only time deliberate injury to a dog is not the financial and legal responsibility of the one who harmed it is if a statute is in place. Harming an animal with negligence is taken on a case by case basis, needing all evidence and information before making any decisions on legality. When a dog attacks another dog, that owner can sue or legally go after the attacking dog’s owner. A dog is only legally allowed to be killed by a non-licensed professional if it is to prevent the attack of livestock.

How we can help you

Handling the laws and regulations regarding dog bites and injuries can be very specific. Hiring a qualified personal injury lawyer who knows the rights of the owner, the victim, and the dog will make it easier for everyone involved.

Have You Been Injured In An Accident Virginia, Maryland or Washington D.C.?

If you've been hurt in an accident you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Vienna, Virgnia office directly at 703.991.7978 or our Rockville, Maryland office at 301.637.5392 to schedule your case consultation.

Yuvora Nong
Helping VA, MD & Washington D.C. clients with all of their immigration law legal needs since 1997.