A dog bite, under certain circumstances, can be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit in Ohio. Different laws govern liability and damages.
According to law coming from years of court cases, known as the common law, a dog has one free bite. In other word, a plaintiff bringing a common law action must prove that the dog’s owner knew that the dog was vicious and was negligent in controlling the animal. The dog, or more accurately the owner, escapes responsibility for the first bite.
Under laws enacted by the legislature, however, the dog does not have a free bite. An owner is usually strictly liable for any provable injuries caused by their dog regardless of how many times they bit other people. However, the owner may escape liability if the victim teased or tormented the dog, trespassed or committed a crime on the owner’s property.
Victims can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other related costs under common and statutory laws. They may also seek non-economic damages for pain, scars, physical impairment or permanent injury.
Also, victims can sue other responsible parties other than the dog’s owner. These include anyone who kept or controlled the dog such as a dog sitter, a dog walker or a landlord in some circumstances.
Prosecuting under common law is a way to recover additional damages to punish the owner, known as punitive damages, in addition to economic and non-economic compensation. Punitive damages may be sought where the dog owner acted maliciously or extremely recklessly.
Ohio’s statutes, on the other hand, do not allow punitive damages. However, this may be the best way to prosecute a claim if the plaintiff cannot prove that the dog has a history of being vicious or biting. Suing under statutes is also preferable when a victim cannot prove that the owner acted negligently because they have strict liability for the dog’s behavior.
Anyone who is injured by a dog bite should report the bite to the local health commissioner to determine whether the dog has rabies. Vicious bites may be reported to the police.
Dog owners may be willing to pay for medical and other damages under the home owner’s insurance. A personal injury attorney can help victims seek these damages and help file a lawsuit if a reasonable settlement is not reached for damages caused by animal bites.