Interested in suing a dog owner after a dog bit you? You're not alone. Man and woman's best friend bites more than 4.7 million people a year. Each year, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites. Half of these are children. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about a dozen die.
A stranger's dog bit your finger. You had to go to the emergency room and incurred medical expenses of $300. Can you sue?
If the dog owner failed to keep their dog confined to the owner's premises or didn't secure their dog with a collar and chain, you've got a good case. You can pursue a personal injury suit against the dog owner and you will likely win because of the owner's negligence.
There are some exceptions. The dog owner is not liable if you were trespassing at the time; you are a veterinarian who was treating the dog; you were committing a felony; you provoked the dog; or the dog was simply doing its job (i.e. assisting the police or the military at the time of the incident).
Another exception occurs in those states that have a "one bite rule" on their books. In those states, the dog owner is not liable for the dog's first bite, unless the dog owner himself caused the bite through negligent, reckless or intentional conduct. If there's a second bite, the dog owner is liable no matter what. About one-third of the states have this rule.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a dog bite, it is important to contact a legal professional as soon as possible. Ideally, the lawyer has some experience in suing dog owners. Make sure to take a picture of your dog bite immediately after the incident, and get the contact information of any witnesses.
If you are a dog owner, you can rest a little easy. If somebody sues you for a dog bite and wins, this will typically be covered by your homeowners insurance. It's a good idea to check with your agent and make sure that's the case.