Ohio Dog Bite Lawyer: Owners Responsible for Attacks & Dog Bite Injury
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 4 million dog bite incidents per year in the US. Of these attacks, around 800,000 require medical attention. It is estimated that between 10 and 20 fatalities occur every year due to dog attacks.
These unfortunate events can be terrifying and traumatic, and should not be taken lightly. Dog owners, who often become complacent or neglectful, have a social and legal responsibility to control the risk their animal represents.
Joe Lyon is an experienced Ohio dog bite lawyer and premises liability attorney reviewing dog bite cases for plaintiffs nationwide.
More than 50 percent of dog bite victims are children younger than 12. Dog bites result in more visits to the emergency room than any other youth activity. Young victims of dog bites often require stitches, a series of rabies shots, and in serious cases plastic surgery. Dog bites are also the most common cause of injury for walking postal workers. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), more than 5,700 letter carriers were victims of dog attacks in 2014.
Every dog owner has a legal obligation to prevent his dog from biting others. A pet owner’s “duty of care” is also much higher when considering children in the vicinity. But it’s not only the official owner of a dog that can be held responsible for an attack. Three different parties, in fact, may be legally responsible for the behavior of the dog. Aside from the owner, in some cases, landlords may be held responsible if the bite or attack happens in a common living area.
A third party, a keeper with temporary control over the dog, such as a hired dog-walker or a friend may be legally responsible if a dog injures a person under their watch.
A dog is deemed a “dangerous dog” if, without provocation, at any time in the past has caused injury to any person, or has killed another dog. People who keep a dangerous dog, with knowledge of its nature, can be found negligent if they do not keep the animal from injuring others. When deciding whether an owner is negligent, the law considers several questions including:
• Has the dog previously engaged in dangerous behavior?
• Did the dog owner have knowledge of this past behavior?
• Is the dog’s dangerous conduct the direct cause of the injury?
Some laws state that an owner is liable regardless of whether the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
Many “dangerous dogs” are of the same breed. Though dogs from any breed can be docile, loving and friendly, size is a principle contributor to personal injury and are therefore more likely to require medical attention and be reported. The following dog breeds have a higher-than-average reported attack rate:
• Bull Terrier
• German Shepherd dog
• Cocker Spaniel
• Great Dane
• Chow Chow
• Pit bull
• Doberman Pinscher
• Siberian Husky
Some states have a law that relieves dog owners from liability if their dogs have previously appeared docile, and not shown violent tendencies.
However, if a dog owner’s actions directly result in a dog attack and causes injury, the owner is deemed negligent and held liable for sustained damages.
Ohio has strict dog bite laws. Ohio law holds dog owners liable for every attack, including the first one. If a person is bitten by a dog in Ohio, they may be entitled to compensation from the owner, who is liable for incurred medical costs, and possibly pain and suffering damages. If the bite forced the person to miss work, they may seek lost wage compensation. In Ohio, a victim has 6 years from the date of the bite or attack to bring legal action.
Most homeowner’s insurance compensates victims for dog bites. This is not uncommon. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), dog bites account for more than a third of all American homeowner’s claims.
The average dog bite claim in 2014 was for more than $32,000. The size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to victims has risen significantly in recent years. In 2014, claims in Ohio alone totaled more than $22 million. If attack victims choose to sue negligent dog owners, the settlement sums can be significantly more than what insurance generally pays out. Listed below are a few recent examples of dog bite settlements:
• In March, 2016, a Texas jury awarded almost $700,000 in damages to a woman bitten badly by a neighbor’s dog.
• In April, 2016, the city of Norfolk Virginia agreed to a settlement of $200,000 to a college student after she was mauled by a municipal police dog.
• In 2015, a dog attack case was settled for $1 million in Colorado. A woman was attacked on her mountain bike by two dogs owned by a large ranch.
Injuries sustained in dog attacks can linger long after the incident. According to the CDC, around 30,000 dog bite victims each year have some kind of reconstructive procedure. Many of these victims are adolescents, under the age of fourteen.
As a result, children are likely to live with long-term mental trauma, often into adulthood. The initial physical injuries are also known to worsen with time. Up to 18 percent of dog bites become infected. Over 60 different kinds of bacteria have been found in dog mouths, some of them quite dangerous, including:
• Capnocytophaga spp.
• Pasteurella (seen in over 50% of infected dog bite wounds)
• MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
It is important to note that the following medical conditions are associated with a higher risk of infection:
• Chronic edema of the extremity
• Diabetes mellitus
• Liver dysfunction
• Previous mastectomy
• Prosthetic valve or joint
• Systemic lupus erythematosus
Rabies can also be a concern. Although contracting rabies from a dog in the United States is rare, rabies is a serious disease that can affect the brain and is often fatal.
Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati premises liability attorney and Ohio dog bite lawyer investigating serious dog bites and injury. Call 800.513.2403 for a free consultation.