The most recent survey conducted by the Center of Disease Control revealed that there are approximately 78.5 million canines living in homes. Nearly 4.7 million people are bitten each year and more than 800,000 cases require medical attention. Liability for dog bite attacks or injuries can attach to the owner, keeper, or harborer of the pet. It is important to determine if the dog is classified as vicious or involved in a prior attack.
When it comes to dog bites, Ohio is a strict liability state (Ohio Revised Code Section 955.28). If you, a loved one, or pet is bitten by a dog in Ohio, the dog owner, harborer or keeper will be liable for the dog bite and any injuries or damages caused by the dog.
The harborer of a dog is a person who controls the place where the dog lives. For example, if a dog and its owner live with the owner’s brother, then the brother would be considered a harborer of the dog.
A keeper maintains control over the dog even on a temporary basis. If a dog owner’s friend is walking the dog, the friend is temporarily the dog’s keeper. If the dog were to bite someone while the keeper was in charge of the dog, the keeper could be liable.
The victim does not have to prove the owner, harborer or keeper was negligent. However, the person who was bitten by a dog must show he/she was at the location lawfully in order to obtain damages from the dog bite. Dog bite victims are entitled to compensation. The compensation may include medical treatment and expenses, prescription medications, pain and suffering, lost wages, scarring and permanency, future care costs and severe emotional distress. You would not be entitled to a recovery if trespassing on property, committing a crime, or provoking the animal somehow.
There are a few exceptions to Ohio’s strict liability dog bite law. If the victim is criminally trespassing or attempting to trespass, or attempting to trespass, or if a person is committing another criminal offense, other than a minor misdemeanor, or if the dog is being teased, tormented or abused when the bite occurs, the owner, harborer or keeper will not be liable for any damages caused.
If it is determined that the dog was provoked to bite, it doesn’t matter if the person bitten was acting innocently and unintentionally when he provoked the dog, unless the victim was a child. If a dog knocks someone over while the dog is being friendly, the result is the same. What made the dog knock a person over is not the issue and the owner, harborer or keeper will be liable if there is a lawsuit.
In general, a trespasser is someone who wasn’t invited onto the property. But unless the property owner makes it very apparent visitors aren’t allowed, the public has an “implied invitation” to come to the door. The visitor may be trying to sell you something, speak with you about an issue involving your school district or the person may only need directions to neighboring address. Thus, if the dog owner can reasonably expect someone to be on the property, he will be liable for any injury that person suffers.
With children, where it is reasonable that they might wander onto the property and approach your dog(s), there is a legal responsibility to prevent the child from coming onto the property or keep the dog from injuring the child.
Also, mail carriers and police officers performing their official duties are not considered trespassers.
You have 24 hours to report a dog bite. Ohio Administrative Code Section 3701-3-28 requires the victim to file a report with the local health commissioner within 24 hours of the dog bite or attack by another animal. We suggest you call your local health department, animal care and control officer or dog warden.
Homeowners and renter’s insurance policies typically cover the dog bite liability expenses, up to the limits of the policy. If the claim exceeds the limits of the coverage, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above the limit of coverage.
In some situations, you may be entitled to recover punitive damages in the event there is proof the owner’s dog has a propensity to be vicious or bite and the owner acted extremely negligently or recklessly.
Under the strict liability statute, you have six (6) years from the date of the incident or six (6) year after the victim’s 18th birthday, if the victim was a minor at the time of the bite, in which to settle your claim or file a lawsuit. Under common law negligence, the statute of limitations is two (2) years. (Ohio Revised Code 2305.10).
Attorney A. James Tsangeos has handled many dog bite cases ranging from a minor child bitten while walking to a park, a neighbor trimming his hedges, a woman riding her horse on a public road, or florist who was delivering an arrangement for Easter holiday.
Please call A. James Tsangeos and discuss your case or send us a website message.