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What if my Child is Bitten by a Dog? Can I Sue?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Nearly 5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the victims are children.

If a dog bites your child, can you sue?


To sue a dog owner for a dog bite, you need to be able to show that the owner is liable. Dog bite liability does vary from state to state.

In some states, such as California, Washington, and Florida, owners are strictly liable for dog bites. This means that a dog owner is always liable for a dog bite even if the owner was not reckless or negligent, or did not know that the dog would bite.

Other states are more lenient. In Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Texas, and other "one bite" states, a dog owner is only liable if they knew or should have known that a dog is likely to bite. This usually means that owners are not liable for the first time a dog bites because they could not have known of the dog's dangerous propensities. But, they are on notice for the next time their dog attacks.

Tips for Avoiding Dog Bites

While you may be eager to sue if your child is bitten by a dog, just keep in mind that 77 percent of child dog bite victims were injured by dogs owned by friends or family. Dogs can be wonderful additions to families, and most dogs don't bite unless provoked. So, here are some tips to help protect your child from being bitten by a dog:

  • Look for signs of anxiety -- Dogs aren't stuffed animals. Not all dogs like to be hugged. They may tolerate hugging for only a short time before they attack. Look for signs of canine anxiety such as ears folded back, tenseness, or the whites of their eyes are visible. If you notice those signs, you may want to call your child away from the dog.
  • Heed the yellow ribbon -- If a dog is wearing a yellow ribbon on its collar or leash, this is a sign that the dog should be approached with caution. The yellow ribbon doesn't necessarily mean the dog is vicious. It just means this dog may not like being cuddled.
  • Don't let kids chase dogs -- Sometimes, a dog will walk away from a child that is bothering it. Children may interpret this as a game instead and chase after the dogs. However, chasing after a dog may make it feel the need to attack to protect itself.

If your child has been bitten by a dog, you may be able to sue. First of all, take your child to a doctor for treatment and to document and gather evidence of the injury. Secondly, file a police report of the incident. Last but not least, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

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