This post was reviewed by Nicholas A. Battaglia, Esq., an attorney licensed in New York and New Jersey. He is owner and legal content writer for a law practice marketing firm and a realty group focusing on new construction builds in upstate New York, where he lives with his lovely wife and his counselor-at-bark Flora, a mixed breed rescue.
Can non-bite injuries from a dog actionable? In states like California, a dog bite that didn’t even break the victim’s skin can be actionable. Even if your dog only scratched, knocked down, or threatened a person in Florida, there can be a particular action taken for your pet’s behavior.
In short, yes, non-bite dog injuries can be actionable, especially for states with strict dog bite laws. So, as pet owners, watch over your pets. There are times that they go uncontrolled, especially when something or someone feels strange towards them.
Keep on reading to know more about non-dog-bite injuries.
Examples Of Non-Bite Injuries
Dog attacks can happen anytime, even if you didn’t even provoke the dog. The majority of dog bites occurred even when the victim didn’t provoke the animal. From what we all know, dogs are so much different from humans; they can’t decide and have a deep understanding of what is right and wrong.
So, if they feel threatened without you doing anything, they would use their mouths to show that. That’s why you want to be careful. Regardless, here is a list of examples of non-bite injuries from dog attacks:
- A seizure that triggered due to a dog attack
- Permanent nerve damage
- Fractured bones from falling a bicycle after being chased by a dog
- A heart attack because of a dog attack
- Trauma, anxiety, and depression because of an accident involving a dog
- Severe lacerations after fleeing from an aggressive dog
- Getting pushed downstairs by a surging dog
Dog attacks alone can be pretty much dangerous, even without a bite, and actionable. Even if a dog has no physical contact with a victim but is the reason for the injuries, you can be liable as a dog owner.
There is an Illinois statute that reads that a dog owner will owe a responsibility to a victim if their dog “attacks, “or even if it’s just “attempts to attack,” which “injured” the victim.
In an instance, a dog lunges forward to the victim, which caused them to fall and get injured, but for sure, the dog owner wouldn’t consider that as violent behavior. It would depend on the victim how they could prove that the dog caused them the injuries and if they could prove the negligence of the owner.
Dog attacks and liabilities can be difficult to understand, so, read on to learn more.
Liability To Non-Dog Bite Injuries
Children and older people are mostly victims of dog-related injuries. Children are as playful as dogs and as unknowledgeable as them. They are not aware of what they are doing. That’s why professionals advise adult supervision when kids play with dogs.
Some children would pull the dog’s tail, pinch their ears, or hold on their legs which could irritate or hurt the dog, resulting in a severe accident. That’s why dogs and children shouldn’t be left alone.
No matter the size, dogs can put people in danger; small dogs would bark and run around in between people’s feet or flop on a walking path causing people to trip. And bigger dogs would sometimes jump on people, scratching them and knocking them off.
I can relate to this because we have a giant dog, and every time he gets excited, and he would jump on me and dig his claws to my shoulders, which is very painful. Even if the dog doesn’t have vicious tendencies from the pastor, it is known to be friendly and doesn’t save you from a lawsuit.
Since some states are quite strict regarding dog-bite and injury-related laws and will hold the dog owner accountable if the victim would be able to prove the owner’s negligence:
- To control the dog while on its leash
- Keeping the dog in a fenced area with warning signs
- Or to contain the pet inside their home or car
But negligence is not always the basis for some states to hold a dog owner accountable. They will put you liable for an injury or damage caused by your dog should always be your responsibility.
Legal Grounds Supporting Non-Dog Bite Injuries
As I have mentioned earlier, liability for your dog is not only for bites, as the state can apply it to damages and injuries caused by your dog. It may be from scratch, or it knocks, tripped, or frightened the victim, which resulted in the person getting hurt.
One example is that 88% out of 86 629 fall injuries are because of dogs. Such accidents happened every year during the years 2001 to 2006. And some of the victims are children pushed or struck by a dog, which resulted in an injury.
Regardless, such actions could result in liability or compensation from the owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog according to these legal grounds:
A commonly used basis for a dog owner to be considered liable if proved to be negligent. Here’s what the law has to say:
“A negligent act or omission may be one which involves an unreasonable risk of harm to another through … the foreseeable action of … an animal ….” from the restatement of torts (second), section 302(b).
One example is when the animal, known for its vicious tendencies, harmed someone and the owner didn’t do something to keep their pet from doing so; that is negligence.
Negligence per se
Negligence per se refers to the legal doctrine which supports that a violation of a law or statute which aims to protect and prevent harm to others should be punishable. The victim may claim compensation from the violator.
For instance, letting your dog run loose in the neighborhood without a leash shows a high risk for people who pass by. Since most cities have specific laws for dogs like “leash laws,” “running at large,” and trespassing, the dog owner violated the law.
Therefore, it is negligence per se or, to some states, evidence of negligent owner. Yet, it would still depend upon the state as some would see it as negligence alone, while for others, negligence per se has its cause of action.
Statute or ordinance
Before we head on, do know that statute and ordinance are different. An ordinance is local legislation made by a city or country, while a statute refers to federal law.
Regardless, dog bite statutes and ordinances are strict towards dog bites and minor injuries caused by a dog—even property damage. So, as a dog owner, review your cities ordinance regarding dog bites and dog injuries. You need to be aware of such things to abide by the law.
The one-bite rule
A rule which most courts usually rely on to deal with dog bites and injuries. The one-bite law states that the liability would depend on the owner’s knowledge, whether they are aware of their dog’s vicious behavior or it has a dangerous propensity.
The rule applies to injuries and damages, not only to actual bites, to hold you liable for your dog’s action. So when a dog usually jumps or charges up against strangers, and the owner knows about it but doesn’t do anything to prevent an accident from happening, which results in the person’s injury, the owner or keeper will be held liable.
You want to familiarize these legal grounds, especially if you are a dog owner. A sample case can help us learn how some courts deal with non-bit injuries to understand the topic thoroughly. Here is a case due to dog fright, a common cause of injuries from dogs.
A Dog Fright Case
Dog fright is one of the most common causes of injuries. A dog fright case happens because of a person acquiring injured due to the dog’s behavior that frightened the victim, which caused them to take defensive actions, which caused them to get hurt.
Technically, it’s not that the dog attacked a person, which resulted in injury, but the owner can still be liable, depending on the situation, the law of their state, and how the court interprets the case.
Regardless, here are some examples of cases regarding “dog fright:”
Rottweilers charged at a jogger in San Diego
The Rottweiler breed, known as guard dogs, will most likely chase strangers as what the victim experienced as he jogged past a golf course.
The jogger went to where the dogs are and got chased by them. The man changed course in hopes to avoid the rottweilers but unfortunately got stuck at the back of his head by the side mirror of a passing truck along the bike lane.
Because of the accident, the jogger acquired severe brain injuries. The court decided to award against the dog owner and the golf course manager a whopping $6 million as compensation for the victim’s wounds.
German shepherd dog chasing trespassers
In this case, a German shepherd dog tends to bark at strangers as it runs towards them as if it’s ready to attack anyone. The owners are aware of the dog’s dangerous behavior, but they would still let their pet run around their house.
The victims trespassed their property with no bad intentions, but it ran and barked viciously as the dog spotted them. The trespassers got scared and tried to escape from the animal but fell off the rock wall instead.
The court sees the facts as support for the injured person caused by the family’s negligence who owns the dog.
A dog is furiously barking at pedestrians
A dog behind a fence facing the public sidewalk is known for its loud barks and aggressive behavior, scaring most people who pass by. A lady happened to walk by the fence when suddenly the dog forced itself to the wall as if it wants to attack the stranger while barking.
It scared the passerby, which caused her to make a sudden move but unfortunately fell and got injured. The incident, interpreted by the supreme court as negligent towards the dog owner. Here’s the full case.
A yappy little dog attacking a cyclist
A yappy and pesky dog can be annoying around the streets. It can also cause someone to get hurt. The case focused on a dog who freely roams around the neighborhood despite its behavior, barking and chasing strangers, and the owners are fully aware of that.
A cyclist happens to pass by the dog owner’s residence when the little yet yappy dog chased and barked at the man. Frightened, the cyclist lost control and fell, resulting in severe injuries.
The incident isn’t surprising since many people complained about the dog scaring others who passed by the area. The court finds the facts could support the victim’s complaint about the negligence of the dog owners.
Talk To Your Lawyer
Whether you are the victim or the dog owner, getting a lawyer is crucial for you to defend your rights.
How can a dog lawyer help the victim?
A non-bite injury from a dog can be actionable, but if it is just soreness, bumps, bruises, or muscle strain that you acquire because of a dog, it would be better to settle it with your insurance company to cover your expenses.
Getting a lawyer wouldn’t be necessary unless the injury costs a lot, then that’s the time for you to grab a lawsuit. Nevertheless, even friendly dogs can severely injure someone by jumping on them or cause someone to trip. It could affect someone physically, emotionally, and financially.
With injuries that require hospitalization, stitches, surgery, or extensive medical and mental care, your insurance wouldn’t be enough to cover that. Therefore, you would need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you settle your case.
A personal attorney wouldn’t cost a lot, your insurance wouldn’t do much to get compensation, but a personal injury attorney knows what to do. As depending on your insurance company alone would only come up with a total net worth of the claim.
Since dog attack cases can get complicated, having a lawyer will help you sort out things and eventually receive the amount needed for your treatment.
How to strengthen your case:
Having solid evidence will help you strengthen your case against dog attacks. To prove that the owner’s negligence by showing your injuries to support your claim will significantly benefit you.
Moreover, if you’re in California, getting compensation from a dog owner would be assured due to their strict dog bite statute. Even a small injury couldn’t escape from liability.
Getting a lawyer can help but prepare photographs and videos will give you the upper hand for your case, as following up a recommended medical treatment after the accident.
Moreover, a witness is strong evidence that can support your case. Make sure to ask for their contact information and ask them to work with you together with your dog attack lawyer on the matter.
The amount you’ll get for the claim will depend on your medical boll or economic loss, so make sure to keep receipts for you to make sure the worth you’d get would be enough.
Can dog owners get a lawyer too?
Whether you’re the victim or the owner whose dog injured the person, speaking with a personal injury attorney is a right for both sides to do so.
If someone is suing you, a lawyer can guide you on what to do and should even help you from liability if you can prove to the court that you are responsible, which I will discuss later on in this article.
Nevertheless, as I have said earlier, you are free to protect your rights, so consider hiring a lawyer experienced in the field to help you lessen the claim you owe to the injured person.
Exceptions To Dog Owner Liability
However, there are exemptions for dog owner liability, these includes:
- If the victim trespasses or is guilty of a crime
- If the canine is licensed police, military, or airport security dog
- If the victim is proven to hurt
- The victim was trespassing or provoke the dog.
- If the victims know that they are at risk of dog bites (veterinarian, dog trainer, and other professionals for dogs)
You want to prove the following to the court for you to save yourself from compensation. Dogs are unpredictable, they can be friendly and calm, but the next thing you know is that the canine lunge at someone, causing them to get injured.
You see, dog bites are dangerous, so are dog-related injuries; that’s why the law in Michigan wants dog owners to be responsible for their dogs’ actions, resulting in damages and injuries.
Their law does imply not only dog bites but also injuries, such as a dog chasing someone and tripped and that hurt the person. The victim can acquire compensation for damages as well.
But in case you got bitten or injured by a vicious dog, take care of the injury first before you reach out for a personal injury attorney. The dog owner can surely be liable and responsible for your finances if you prove their negligence of handling their vicious dog before the attack happened.
Dogs are reliable creatures, and I believe most dog owners consider them part of their family. Yet, despite knowing your pups as friendly, you can’t avoid specific incidents to happen, that your dog caused an injury to someone.
Whether it be an accident or not, your state might find you liable for your dog’s action. So, can non-bite injuries from a dog actionable? Yes, it is actionable, but it would still depend on the situation, how the court interprets the case, and your state’s dog bite and injury laws.
Regardless, let me remind you to be a responsible dog owner to keep your dog from getting in trouble and saving yourself from compensation. Have a good day!