How is liability for a dog bite established?

There are two claims that can be filed in a case of a dog attack. One such way is by failing a negligence claim. For example, failing to properly restrain the dog is not the only way a dog owner may fail to use ordinary care. Other common situations occur when a dog owner may be negligent for failing to properly socialize the dog, failing to properly handle the dog or failing to properly train the dog.

The other common dog bite claim is called a strict liability claim. Under a strict liability claim, a person is strictly liable for the actions of the dog (or other domesticated animal) if (1) the person is the owner or possessor (for example, someone keeping or watching the dog for the owner) of the dog; (2) the dog had dangerous propensities abnormal to its class (in other words, is it more dangerous than typical dogs); (3) the person knew or had reason to know the dog had dangerous propensities; and (4) those propensities were a producing cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The difference between these two claims is that a strict liability claim requires proof that the dog owner knew the dog was dangerous, while a negligence claim does not have that requirement. We try to prove that the dog owner knew the dog was dangerous regardless of which claim we are making. Even for a negligence claim, if you can prove that the dog owner knew the dog was dangerous and still failed to properly handle, train or restrain the dog, the results will be better.

Other Dog Bite FAQs: