Each state has its own laws regarding liability for dog bite injuries. Liability is generally based on who is responsible for the dog and whether that person had notice that the dog had the propensity to bite. Usually, the dog’s owner is held legally responsible for dog bite injuries. However, there are other circumstances where someone else may also be liable for your dog bite injury.
Who can be held liable?
Depending on the facts of your case, there may be more than one person who can be held responsible for dog bites. For example, if someone other than the dog’s actual owner was taking care of the dog, or had physical control over the dog at the time of the attack, that person may also be held liable. If the dog is owned by a minor, the parents of that minor can be held responsible. If the owner had a landlord, and that landlord was aware that the dog was dangerous, but did not take any action, the landlord may also be liable. Similarly, if the dog was on the property of someone other than the owner at the time of the attack, and the property owner was negligent in not having the dog removed, the property owner may be liable for your injuries.
What are “Keepers” or “Harborers?”
States, such as Arkansas, that follow the so-called “one-bite rule,” consider anyone who harbors or keeps a dog, equally liable if the dog causes injury. A “keeper” or “harborer” is a person who has care, custody and control of the dog, but is not actually the legal owner. These terms generally refer to more than just giving a stray dog a meal, or the occasional presence of a dog in your yard.
Under most state laws, a groomer or kennel owner would be considered a keeper. If a dog escapes from an animal shelter and injures someone the shelter can be held liable. On the other hand, in some cases courts have held that if you are visiting someone temporarily, and you let the dog out and it injures someone, you may not necessarily be considered liable. It is also important to consider any applicable local ordinances that address dog ownership.
Liability of children for dog bite injury
If the dog is owned or cared for by someone less than 18 years old, that minor’s parents are probably legally liable instead of the minor. The dog-bite laws of some states say that explicitly. Some other states have laws that make parents generally responsible, to a limited extent, for damage their minor children cause. In other states, the child’s parents may be considered “keepers” because they allow the dog on the premises and give it food and shelter.
If you have questions regarding dog bite injuries, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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