Recovering Compensation for Dog Bites

In Ohio, plaintiffs can bring a claim against dog owners for a dog bite under the state's dog bite statute (R.C. §955.28). Below you will find information regarding when a dog owner may be liable for your injuries and what other parties also may be responsible for harm caused by a dog.

Ohio's Dog Bite Statute

Under the state's dog bite statute (R.C. §955.22), dog owners are held absolutely liable for any injuries or damages caused by their animals. This means that plaintiffs do not have to prove the owner was negligent in securing the dog or that the owner had knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities. The actions of the animal determine liability under Ohio's dog bite statute.

In order to bring a successful claim under R.C. §955.22, a plaintiff needs to be able to prove the following:

  • The defendant is the owner of the dog
  • The dog injured, worried or chased the plaintiff
  • As a result of the dog's actions, the plaintiff was injured

Dog owners may be held liable if their dog's actions were the proximate cause of an injury, but the dog itself did not inflict the injury - in other words, the dog does not need to actually bite someone for the owner to be found liable. For example, if a person was running and a dog scared or chased the person who then injured himself, the dog owner may be held responsible for the runner's injuries.

Kentucky Dog Bite Statute

Like Ohio, Kentucky is a strict liability state - in almost every situation, dog owners are held strictly liable for any damage their pet causes to a person or their property, including livestock.

Kentucky law also allows anyone who has been attacked by a dog to file a complaint in court charging the owner of the animal with keeping a vicious dog. For purposes of the law, an attack can be any attempt by the dog to bite a person or a successful bite, so long as the victim is not trespassing on the owner's property or otherwise on the property illegally. If a judge rules that the dog viciously and without cause attacked the victim, the owner will generally be responsible for all of the victim's damages. Further, the dog's owner may be required to keep the dog either in a locked enclosure at least seven feet high, or in a secure kennel.

When an Owner May Not be Held Liable

Many dog owners incorrectly believe that if their pet harms someone on the pet owner's property, the dog owner cannot be held liable. This is not true. Property owners may be held liable for any injuries caused by their pets to those legally on their property, including door-to-door salespeople.

However, a dog owner generally cannot be held liable if someone is illegally on their property and is bitten or otherwise injured by their dog. The law does not protect those who are hurt by an animal while breaking the law.

Also, if it can be shown that the person who was bit by the dog had been teasing, taunting or abusing the animal prior to the injury, the dog owner may have a defense. The time between the person's alleged acts and the dog bite is crucial, however, for successfully maintaining this defense.

Additionally, the city cannot be held liable for any injuries caused by police dogs when the dogs are being used by law enforcement officials while they are on-the-job.

Potential Liable Parties

Not only dog owners, but also those who keep or harbor dogs may be held liable when an animal causes harm to another person.

  • A dog owner is the person who the animal actually belongs to
  • A dog keeper is the person who currently has physical control over the animal, like a friend dog-sitting or a dog-walker
  • A dog harborer is the person who has possession and control over the property where the dog is kept at, like at a kennel

Vicious Dogs: Pit Bulls

There is a rebuttable presumption under Ohio law that dogs regarded as "pit bulls" (American Pit Bull Terriers) are vicious dogs. Owners of vicious dogs must take additional precautions to protect people from harm. Some of these requirements include keeping the animal securely confined at all times, including when the pit bull is on the owner's property. Pit bull owners also are required by state law to carry a liability insurance policy to cover any damage, bodily injury or death caused by their animals.

Recently, there have been several cases challenging the constitutionality of state laws and city ordinances on vicious dogs. In 2006, pit bull owners challenged the state law labeling pit bulls as vicious dogs. They argued that it was a violation of their due process rights to brand all dogs of any particular breed as vicious without allowing the owner the opportunity to prove otherwise. The Ohio Supreme Court, however, did not agree, ruling v Tellings that R.C. §955.22 does not violate pit bull owners' due process rights.

Conclusion

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog or otherwise injured because of the actions of a dog, you may be entitled to recovery for your injuries, including medical expenses. In some cases, you also may be entitled to punitive damages. For more information on pursuing a dog bite injury case, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.