A Dog Bite Can Result In Legal Hot Water

Posted on: 19 September 2018

Americans own almost 90 million dogs in 2017. Dogs bite an estimated 4.7 million people every year, and while the majority of those bites are minor, 800,000 still required medical care. In 2017, 39 Americans were fatally mauled, the majority by pit bulls.

Dogs may be much-beloved in the United States, but they can be dangerous and unpredictable. Dog owners can also be sued or even face criminal charges if their animal bites someone or, worse, kills them. Here's what both owners and those who have been attacked need to know.

Which Dog Breeds Bite The Most?

Any dog can bite, but some can inflict far more damage, primarily because of their jaw strength and musculature. For example, Chihuahuas are known nippers but they aren't physically capable of mauling anyone to death. In addition to Chihuahuas, bulldogs, pit bulls, bull terriers, Jack Russell terriers, German and Australian shepherds, cocker spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, and wolf hybrids, along with two other small breeds, Pekingese and papillons, bite the most.

High-Risk Breeds Can Cost You Money

Even if your dog has never bitten anyone, they can still cost you money. You may not be able to live in a specific area or have homeowners insurance if you own a specific breed. Some breeds are banned in municipalities or by homeowners associations. Doberman pinschers, pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepherds, Dalmatians, mastiffs, and chow chows are common breeds subject to Breed Specific Legislation.

Many of these breeds and more are also not allowed by home insurance carriers as the industry paid out almost 500 million in dog bite claims in 2013. Over one-third of claims were from dog bites. Some states, such as Michigan, don't allow insurers to profile dog breeds, but the majority do.

What Is Your Liability If Your Dog Bites Someone Or You Have Been Bitten?

Many states have a "one bite" law where the dog is basically forgiven the first time. You can still be sued for medical expenses, however. Other states have strict liability laws where you are responsible no matter what, unless the person was trespassing or they purposely provoked the dog. You can also be sued or sue for negligence if the dog wasn't properly leashed and attacked a person or another dog, and in a strict liability state, it doesn't matter if your dog snapped his chain or got out of his collar. Laws vary by state and municipality, so if your dog has bitten someone or you have been bit, be sure to consult a personal injury law firm like The Cochran Firm of the Mid-South immediately.