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Dog Owners Beware

If you own a dog, you will want to be aware of your potential liability should your dog bite or injure another person. In many dog bite cases, the owner will claim that the injured victim provoked or taunted the dog in some way and that the owner therefore cannot be held liable. However, most states, including Ohio, apply “strict liability” when it comes to dog bites. This means that the owner of a dog who bites or otherwise injures a person will be held liable for any injuries and damages caused by the dog regardless of fault on the part of the owner.  The mere fact that you own the dog and the dog injured someone is sufficient to subject you to liability. This is true even if you are not present when your dog injures someone.

There are a few exceptions to strict liability in Ohio.  If the victim of a dog bite was criminally trespassing or attempting to trespass, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog, the dog’s owner will not be held liable.  However, a child trying to play with a dog will usually not be considered teasing or tormenting. Moreover, a child’s attempt to retrieve a stray ball will not be considered trespass.

In Ohio, a dog bite victim has six years from the date of the bite in which to file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner.  This time frame is longer for children.  A child who is bitten by a dog has six years beyond his or her eighteenth birthday in which to file a lawsuit. This is something to keep in mind if your dog injures someone.

The victim of a dog bite may recover compensation for a variety of injuries and damages. These include, but are not limited to:

Medical expenses, pain and mental suffering, permanent scarring, temporary or permanent disability, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, loss of quality of life, cosmetic services, psychological counseling, and damaged clothing.

The following list identifies the dog breeds that reportedly cause the majority of dog bites in the United States:

  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiller
  • German Shepherd
  • Husky
  • Malamute
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Chow Chow
  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard

Typically, any money recovered from the owner’s dog is covered by the owner’s homeowners’ insurance.  Therefore, it is important that you make sure you have sufficient liability limits under your homeowners’ policy to protect yourself in the event that someone is injured by your dog.


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