Does the Type of Animal Affect a Bite Injury Case?
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed December 04, 2018
If you suffer injury as a result of an animal bite and decide to pursue a legal claim for the harm you suffered, in some states your rights might vary depending on the type of animal that bit you.
Most states have enacted laws that are collectively referred to as "dog-bite laws." Dog-bite laws impose what is known as "strict liability" on dog owners for injuries caused by their dogs. Strict liability means that the dog owner is responsible for injuries caused by his or her dog, regardless of whether the owner was actually at fault.
Dog-bite statutes provide a significant legal advantage to people injured by dogs. In states that do not have such laws, an injured person has the burden of proving that the dog owner knew (or should have known) that his/her dog was vicious and could injure someone. Under strict liability dog-bite law, however, an injured person only needs to show that the dog bit him or her, and the owner's knowledge is not an issue.
However, an injured person could be barred from recovering damages (even under a dog-bite law), if the dog owner shows that the injured person provoked the dog, or was trespassing. Generally, in states with dog-bite laws, a person injured by a dog will have an easier time proving his or her legal case than a person bitten by another type of animal.
To find out whether your state has a specific dog-bite statute, you should check with an experienced attorney in your area.
Horses and Domestic Animals
Most injuries from horses are caused by kicks rather than bites. Most states do not have specific laws regarding injuries caused by horses, so such injuries are typically are treated in the same manner as injuries caused by other domestic animals: under standard rules of negligence. This means that the owner of a horse will usually be held liable for injuries caused by the horse if the owner knew or had reason to know of the horse's dangerous tendencies. Also, consistent with other animal cases, a horse owner may not be liable for injuries if the owner can prove the injured person "assumed the risk," was "contributorily negligent," or provoked the horse.
People who own or keep wild animals are often subject to strict liability in the same way that dog owners are responsible for dog bites under dog-bite laws. The reason for this is that the act of keeping an animal that is potentially uncontrollable and vicious is considered inherently dangerous. Thus, even if the owner of a wild animal goes to extreme measures to protect people from his animal (such as building high fences), if the animal does end up injuring someone, the owner can be held liable regardless of the effort he or she took to protect the public.
Talk to a Lawyer about Your Bite Injury Claim
The type of animal that injures you can affect your legal rights. To find out if your state has specific "dog-bite laws" or other animal-specific laws, and to discuss your potential claim for injury, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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