What Are the Legal Consequences of a Dog Attack?

Dog Bites | September 26, 2023

When a dog attacks or bites a victim, the injured party may be eligible for financial compensation with an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. These cases involve Kentucky’s dog bite injury laws, including municipal statutes. Understanding the legal consequences of a dog attack – and your legal options as a victim – may take help from a dog bite injury lawyer in Louisville.

Dog Bite Laws: Strict Liability vs. One-Bite Rule

There are two main types of dog bite laws: strict liability and the one-bite rule. Strict liability means a pet owner can be held liable (legally and financially responsible) regardless of actual negligence or intent to harm. Negligence, or the failure to use proper care, is the foundation for most personal injury claims in Kentucky. If a strict liability law applies to a case, however, it is not necessary to prove negligence for a victim to recover financial compensation.

A one-bite dog bite statute, on the other hand, requires evidence of negligence. Specifically, it requires a dog attack victim to show that the dog had a prior history of violent behaviors or vicious propensities, and that the pet owner knew or reasonably should have known about these propensities but negligently failed to prevent a second or subsequent attack. In other words, the dog gets one “free” bite before the pet owner can be held responsible for a dog attack.

Kentucky’s Dog Bite Statute

Kentucky uses a strict liability dog bite law. According to the Kentucky Revised Statutes, Section 258.235(4), any owner whose dog is found to have caused injury or damage to any person, livestock or property shall be responsible for that damage. This is true even if the dog had never previously shown vicious propensities or if the pet owner used reasonable care to prevent the attack from occurring. 

Regardless of the circumstances, a dog owner in Louisville can be held liable for damage caused by his or her dog under this law. Most of these claims seek coverage from the pet owner’s property insurance company. There are some exceptions to the strict liability law, however, in cases where the victim was trespassing or provoked the dog. In these scenarios, the pet owner may be able to avoid liability for the victim’s injuries, property damage and/or medical bills.

Criminal Liability for a Dog Attack

Many municipalities in Kentucky have laws regarding “dangerous dogs.” These are dogs that have been deemed a threat to public safety and labeled as dangerous or potentially dangerous by the local Animal Control Authority. A dog may be considered dangerous if it attacks, bites or severely injures a victim or kills a domestic animal. If a pet owner’s dog is labeled as “dangerous,”city ordinances require the owner to take special precautions to prevent attacks.

Special restrictions may include ensuring proper dog enclosures on the owner’s property, using shorter leashes and putting a muzzle on the dog on walks. If the pet owner does not cooperate with the dangerous dog restrictions and the dog injures someone as a result, the owner could face criminal penalties. For example, if the pet owner’s reckless violation of the law results in a fatal dog attack, the owner could be charged with manslaughter.

If you have been injured in a dog attack in Louisville and want to learn more about the potential legal consequences, contact the attorneys at Hendy | Johnson | Vaughn | Emery for a free case consultation.

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