Many states’ dog bite laws include provisions referred to as “one bite free” or “one bite rule.” Even in states that do not have a specific one bite free rule as such, the one bite rule is a standard element of common law, used to establish an owner’s liability for his or her dog’s aggressive behavior.
Despite the name, states that have one bite rules do not prohibit suing dog owners for injuries if you’ve been bitten. One bite free rules and guidelines simply establish higher standards of proof to establish the dog owner’s liability the first time his or her dog bites someone. On the other side of the equation, one bite free rules make it far easier to establish owner responsibility for any subsequent bites.
The one bite free rule recognizes that dogs can be unpredictable, and the first time a dog bites someone, it is not necessarily the owner’s fault. After the first bite, however, the dog owner is assumed to be aware of the dog’s propensity for aggression, which lowers the bar of proof in any additional biting incidents.
Establishing responsibility for first bite incidents
Even if you live in a state with a clear one bite free rule, you may have recourse to show that the dog’s owner bears responsibility for the injuries.
Under one bite free rules, it is up to the victim to establish that the owner either knew or should have known about the dog’s aggressive tendencies, or that the owner was negligent in his or her care and control of the dog.
Some of the factors that may help establish responsibility include the following:
- The dog has been known to act aggressively, including lunging, growling, or baring its teeth
- The dog was at large at the time of the incident
- The dog is a banned or restricted breed in your area
- The dog was trained for fighting, guarding, or other aggressive behavior
- The owner has had aggressive dogs in the past
- The owner was negligent in restraining or controlling the dog
There are a number of different ways that a victim can go about gathering evidence to establish owner responsibility in first bite cases, although the standards may differ from one jurisdiction to the next. In many cases, dogs may have bitten before, but the bites were not reported, or there may be complaints on file with the city or the homeowners’ association about aggressive behavior.
A dog bite lawyer familiar with the laws and guidelines in your area may be able to locate evidence establishing owner responsibility even in cases where no previous aggression has been reported.
After the ‘free bite’
The other side of the one bite free rules is that if a dog has bitten before, the owner is assumed to be aware of the dog’s tendency to bite, and the victim does not have to meet such a high standard to prove the owner’s responsibility.
It is still important in these cases, however, for the victim to gather evidence establishing the circumstances of the incident, including interviewing any witnesses and others who may have knowledge of the situation.
Although the standard for establishing owner responsibility is lower in such cases, the more evidence of negligence, the better the victim’s chances of recovering a fair settlement in court.
As with first bite cases, it is important to consult with an experienced dog bite lawyer who can advise you on what you’ll need to establish the strongest case possible.
Establishing legal responsibility
Whether this is the first time a dog has bitten someone or not, it is important to gather as much information as possible as quickly as possible, in order to establish who is responsible for the damages inflicted by the dog bite. Witnesses and others familiar with the dog and its owners must be interviewed, evidence must be gathered, and a case must be clearly outlined to establish who is responsible under the guidelines in your jurisdiction.
An experienced personal injury attorney, familiar with the rules and guidelines of dog bite cases in your area, can offer the guidance you need to make your strongest case and establish clear responsibility for your injuries.
Dog Bite Lawyers
- Robbins Law, Atlanta dog bite lawyers