Dog Bites: Are They a Civil or Criminal Offense?

Dog Bites are They a Civil or Criminal Offense

Legal action involving dog bites is interesting because it often involves both criminal and civil aspects. There are also laws that state what happens to the dog in the event that a person is bit, and these are generally labeled as administrative laws. States generally have one of two sets of laws regarding dog bites, and these are “strict liability” and “one bite” states.

Strict Liability States

States considered to be strict liability will often find in favor of the plaintiff in the event that a person is bit. This ensures that owners take proper care to ensure their dog isn’t a danger or is properly contained so the general public isn’t exposed to this danger. Although there are a few instances where owners can’t be held liable, and these include when a person:

  • provokes the dog in some way
  • is trespassing and the dog is simply protecting the property

If either of the above-listed facts is proven to be true the owner will generally not be held liable unless the dog shows unnecessary ferocity in its attack and causes serious injury to the plaintiff.

One Bite States

States that prescribe to the one bite law are far more forgiving to dog owners. In these states the dog must have been known by the owner to bite people before they can be held responsible civilly or criminally. Although, if the owner does know that the dog poses a danger they face the same civil and criminal charges as those in strict liability states.

Possible Charges for Dog Bites

The type of charges a dog owner faces is often determined by the circumstances surrounding the bite and the extent of the injuries suffered by the victim. In the most severe cases owners can face criminal charges, and these generally involve a dog that is trained to attack people. If an owner trains their dog in this way and then doesn’t take proper care to ensure the dog isn’t a danger to innocent people the owner can face criminal penalties such as:

  • up to $10,000 in fines
  • felony charges and being imprisoned for a maximum of four years
  • removal of and euthanasia of the dog

Punitive damages are also something that owners may be required to pay, and these are often awarded when the attack is so severe that the courts believe the victim deserves compensation beyond what is required to recover their losses.

Getting Legal Assistance

Dog bite injuries can be quite tragic. Not only does the victim often relive the event over and over in his mind, but there are also many medical issues that come with the attack. The best thing a dog bite victim can do is speak with a qualified personal injury attorney to see which actions he should take. Schedule your free case evaluation today by calling 713.766.5400.

*Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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