Dog bites can lead to serious injuries and legal consequences. More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and at least half of those bitten are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Every year, more than 800,000 people need medical attention for dog bites, resulting in significant medical expenses. When someone is bitten by a dog, the victim may choose to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for their losses.
However, just as plaintiffs (victims) have rights, defendants in dog bite lawsuits also have a range of defenses they can present to contest the claim.
Your Legal Options After Suffering a Dog Bite
After a dog bite or dog attack, you have legal options. “Many dog attack injuries happen due to the careless or negligent actions of a dog’s owner,” note dog bite lawyers at Harris & Harris Injury Lawyers, “the last thing you should ever have to worry about is getting bitten or attacked by someone else’s dog.”
As an injured victim, you have the legal right to seek financial compensation for your losses through a dog bite claim, which can help recover damages such as medical bills, lost wages from time off of work, property damages, and pain and suffering.
Dog Bite Lawsuit Defenses
Lack of Knowledge
One of the most straightforward defenses to a dog bite claim is that the dog owner had no reason to believe that their dog could pose a risk of biting. This defense is applicable in cases where the dog has never displayed aggressive behavior before.
If the owner can show that they had no reason to anticipate their dog to attack the victim, it could weaken the case.
Trespassing or Provoking the Dog
Dog owners may argue that the dog bite victim was trespassing on their property or provoked the dog in some way, leading to the bite. If it can be proven that the plaintiff’s actions sparked the dog’s response, the owner may note that they are not fully responsible for the attack.
Assumption of Risk
The assumption of risk defense rests on the idea that the plaintiff assumed the risk of being bitten by interacting with the dog despite being aware of its potentially aggressive nature. This defense may be used if the dog had a known history of aggression and the plaintiff chose to interact with it despite the warning.
Similar to the assumption of risk, the contributory negligence defense states the plaintiff’s actions contributed to the dog attack. If the plaintiff’s behavior increased the likelihood of the bite occurring, it may reduce the owner’s liability.
Lack of Causation
The dog owner might argue that their dog was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The dog owner may note that the plaintiff was injured in a different manner, such as tripping and falling. The dog owner can claim the dog bite did not play a significant role in the injuries.
Working Dog Exception
Certain breeds of dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, such as guarding or herding. In some jurisdictions, dog owners may present the “working dog” defense, asserting that the dog was acting in line with its training and instincts when the bite occurred.
If the dog had displayed warning signs of aggression or had been declared dangerous, the owner may be held to a higher standard of care. However, the owner may use the defense that they had taken appropriate precautions to prevent the attack.
Third Party Provoking the Animal
In cases where a third party provoked the dog to attack, the dog owner may argue that they cannot be held liable for an action caused by another individual’s behavior.
Dog Bite Defenses Can Vary
While victims seek compensation for their injuries, defendants often present various defenses to avoid liability. Whether it’s claiming a lack of knowledge or asserting the assumption of risk, dog owners have several defenses to combat the allegations brought against them.
If you’re involved in a dog bite lawsuit, consulting with an experienced dog bite attorney who specializes in personal injury law can provide valuable guidance and help you navigate the complexities of the legal process.