Strict Liability Laws

Strict liability laws are in place to hold dog owners liable for any damage or injury that is caused by a dog. These laws are more stringent than most dog bite laws, and will often hold owners liable in cases where a dog has attacked without showing previous signs of viciousness. Strict liability laws may also be used to hold dog owners liable in cases where a dog has not bitten the victim, but has caused harm in other ways, such as knocking a victim down.

State Strict Liability Laws

States across the U.S. vary widely in the use of strict liability laws versus other types of dog bite laws. States have the option to enforce strict liability laws or adopt other types of dog bite injury laws. States may adhere completely to strict liability laws or may vary in the way dog bite cases are handled by counties and jurisdictions. States may also repeal strict liability dog bite statutes or chose to adopt the laws as it is deemed necessary by legislators.

Scope of Strict Liability Laws

Strict liability laws have been in place since the 1700s in the United States. Unlike other types of dog bite laws, dog owners do not get “one free bite” before being held liable for dog bite injuries. In most cases, the victim does not have to provide evidence that the dog owner was negligent. In cases where another person besides the dog’s owner was caring for the dog, that person may be held liable for injuries caused by the dog.

Dog Bite Incident Conditions

The location in which a dog bite incident occurred and the conditions under which it occurred may have some bearing on how the case is handled. If a dog was not on a leash off of the owner’s property and a victim was bitten, the owner will be held liable and may face penalties in addition to covering the victim’s medical costs. If a victim was bitten while a dog was on a leash, negligence of the owner or the actions of the victim prior to the attack may come into question. If the victim was bitten while on the owner’s property, the owner will usually be held liable. However, this may vary based on warning signs that may be in place on the property and whether the victim was invited or acted menacingly towards the dog.

Strict Liability Law Exceptions

There are certain exceptions to strict liability laws that may excuse the dog owner from liability for injuries:

  • Dog attack incidents which were provoked by the victim
  • Occurrences where the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property
  • Incidents in which the victim was committing a crime against the dog owner
  • The victim took on risks associated with caring for the dog, such as administering veterinary care
  • The dog was participating in police or military actions at the time of the attack