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dog bite injuries

Dog Bite Injuries and Liability in Ohio

Dog bite injuries are surprisingly common, in Ohio and around the country.  Many of the approximately 4.5 million dog bites suffered in the U.S. each year are relatively minor.

However, hundreds of thousands of people are treated for dog bites annually—some quite extensively. Dog bite injuries account for about 28,000 reconstructive surgical procedures each year.

Under Ohio law, a dog bite victim is may be entitled to compensation from the owner or another person in possession of the dog. In fact, a person injured by someone else’s dog in Ohio may have more than one possible cause of action.

Claims in Ohio Dog Bite Cases

Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Ohio

While most injury-related claims require a showing of negligence, Ohio’s strict liability statute makes the “owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog” responsible for injury, death, and other damages caused by the dog.

Ohio holds the owner, keeper, or harborer responsible even if the dog has never bitten before.

The only exceptions are:

  • When the injury occurred while the injured person was committing or attempting to commit a crime against a person, or against the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer
  • When the injured party was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog on the owner’s, keeper’s, or harborer’s property

Under the strict liability statute, the owner, keeper, or harborer is responsible for the injured party’s losses, such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost work time
  • Pain and suffering

Who is an Owner, Keeper, or Harborer?

Ownership of an animal is fairly straightforward, but Ohio law also places liability on “keepers” and “harborers.”

“Keeper” refers to someone who has temporary control of the dog, such as a doggy daycare provider or a friend who takes the dog out for a walk. “Harborer” refers to the person who owns or controls the premises where the dog is kept.

For example, if an elderly person moves in with her adult daughter and brings a dog along, the daughter as the owner of the house “harbors” the dog, although her elderly mother actually owns the animal.

Special Rules for Dangerous Dogs

Ohio law requires a dog that has previously bitten or otherwise attacked to be registered as a “dangerous dog.” Dangerous dogs are subject to a variety of special controls, including restrictions on leash length, special measures to secure the dog and a requirement that the dog wears a tag designating it as dangerous.

If failure to comply with these requirements results in injury or death, the dog’s owner may face criminal charges in addition to civil liability.

Negligence Claims in Ohio Dog Bite Cases

Although a dog bite victim need not prove negligence to recover damages under the statute, the injured party may still elect to pursue a negligence-based personal injury claim.  

In a negligence suit, the victim must prove that the defendant had a duty of care, failed in that duty and that his or her failure to exercise due care caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

An injured person might opt for a negligence claim because:

  •  The circumstances surrounding the injury did not fall within the strict liability statute
  •  The dog bite injury was caused—or caused in part—by the negligence of someone who was not the owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog
  •  The injured party might be entitled to punitive damages in a negligence suit

Talk to an Ohio Dog Bite Lawyer

A local Ohio personal injury attorney experienced in dog bite injuries cases can be the best source of information about who may be responsible for your dog bite injury and which theory of liability best suits your circumstances.

If you or a family member has been bitten by someone else’s dog, schedule a free consultation right now to learn more about your options.

The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation

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