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Dog Bite Lawsuits


Dog bite law is a unique combination of city and county ordinances, state statutory law, state case law (i.e., legal principles that result from specific lawsuits within the state), and common law (i.e., legal principles resulting from specific lawsuits from throughout the United States, usually as reported in authoritative legal works such as the Restatement of Law). Because of the complexity of laws on dog bites in Oregon, it is advisable to retain an experienced dog bite injury attorney. If you or a loved one has been bitten and you need to seek damages for your injuries, a dog bite attorney can help.

Broadly speaking, all states including Oregon hold a person responsible for:

  • Their own negligence, intentional conduct, and reckless or outrageous behavior;
  • Keeping a dog that previously bit a person or exhibited a tendency to someday bite a person (called “common law strict liability”); and
  • Violating a public health and safety law such as a leash law or a prohibition against dogs running at large.

Strict Liability in Dog Bite Cases

In all strict liability states, including Oregon (i.e., those that have strict liability statutes applicable to canine-inflicted injuries), the dog owner will be held liable upon the additional ground that he or she was the owner of the dog that inflicted the bite, regardless of whether or not the owner was negligent. Some strict liability statutes include whoever had custody of the dog as well as its owner, non-bite injuries as well as bites, and provide for additional compensation if the dog previously bit a person. Many dog bite statutes combine concepts of negligence, common law strict liability, and violations of local law.

Thirty states have dog bite statutes, and Oregon is one of them. The usual defenses in dog bite claims are that the victim provoked the dog, was a trespasser, was negligent, consciously assumed the risk of being bitten, or was someone who worked with canines in a professional capacity and was therefore deemed to assume the risk. When the victim is a child, another defense is that the parent negligently failed to supervise the child and therefore was a cause of the accident. These defenses might be based on state statutes or judicial decisions. The defenses are different from state to state, and any particular defense might not apply in a specific case. An experienced dog bite injury attorney can help you when it comes to this.

Laws on Dog Bites

If a state does not have a strict liability statute, that state is likely a “one-bite state.” In one-bite states, legal responsibility is determined by the following principles:

  • The first issue is whether the dog previously bit anyone. If so, then the dog owner/custodian is strictly responsible.
  • If the answer is no, the second issue is whether the dog previously did something that should have put the owner/custodian on notice that the dog was inclined to bite somebody in the future.
  • If that answer is no, we consider whether the person having custody of the dog at the time of the incident violated any law pertaining to public health or safety which was intended to protect people like the victim.  For example, was the dog allowed to run off leash at large in violation of a statute or ordinance and while doing so, bit someone.
  • If we cannot find negligence per se, we consider whether the incident was caused by negligence. For example, a dog that is habitually mistreated, or sick, or suffering from a painful disease is more likely to bite a person, even if the dog has never done so before.
  • Negligence is usually a basis for liability in a one-bite state.
  • If the dog owner or custodian is not responsible, then we consider whether anyone else might be liable as a result of their negligence or knowledge of the dangerous propensity of the dog to attack or bite people.

Retaining an Experienced Dog Bite Attorney

If you’re looking for an experienced and reputable dog bite attorney that has proven experience with laws on dog bites, contact Kehoe Sands Law today to schedule your free in-person consultation.

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