“One-Bite” and Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws in the U.S.

“One-Bite” and Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws in the U.S.

by / Wednesday, 28 March 2018 / Published in Dog Bites

Not all states have the same laws regarding dog bites. Generally speaking, dog bite laws around the country tend to fall into two main categories: strict liability and “one bite.” But what’s the difference between these types of laws?

Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws

Strict liability dog bite laws are the most common type of dog bite law in the United States. They’re currently used in 36 states (Michigan included) and in Washington D.C. The basic concept behind these laws is pretty simple: the owner of a dog is responsible for injuries their dog causes, even if it doesn’t have a history of biting or being aggressive.

However, although many states have strict liability laws, they’re not exactly the same everywhere. Some states have different rules about exactly when they apply. For example, Michigan has a general strict liability law, but in the state of Maine, their strict liability laws only apply if the victim was not on the dog owner’s property when they were bitten. Laws can also differ on which types of injuries are covered by strict liability laws. In some states, the laws also apply to other  injuries caused by dogs, not just dog bites. If you have any question about the specifics of dog bite law in your state, contact a dog bite lawyer.

Even if a state has strict liability laws, that doesn’t necessarily mean the dog’s owner is always responsible. There are some circumstances when the owner might not be held liable, such as if the victim intentionally provoked the dog, if the victim was trespassing at the time they were bitten, or if the victim knew there was a chance they could be hurt by the dog. Again, the allowable defenses can vary from state to state, so if you have any questions, it’s best to contact a lawyer.

“One-Bite” Dog Bite Laws

In many states, dog owners will only be held liable for dog bite injuries if they had reason to know that the dog has a tendency to bite or to otherwise behave aggressively. The basic idea behind this kind of law is that after a dog bites someone for the first time, or otherwise behaves in a way that suggests it could be aggressive or dangerous, its owner should be on notice and take steps to protect others from the dog.

Some people refer to this as a “one free bite” rule, but many people consider this term to be misleading. In states with a one-bite law, a dog’s owner might still be liable for injuries their dog causes under certain circumstances, even if the dog doesn’t have a prior history of biting. This can happen if the dog involved is a breed with a reputation for being aggressive or if the owner failed to warn someone that a dog might be likely to bite at the time, such as if the dog was sick or injured. It’s also important to note that the first injury caused by a dog doesn’t necessarily have to be a bite, it can include other types of injuries as well. A dog’s behavior doesn’t even have to actually cause an injury to put an owner on notice under the law, either. As long as the dog behaves in a way that would reasonably be seen as aggressive or dangerous, even without causing injury, the dog’s owner has a responsibility to protect others from the dog.

 

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