Understanding Dog Bite Law

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Dog bites can cause physical injury as well as both financial and emotional struggles. Regardless of the severity of the impacts of the bite that harmed you, it is important to understand your rights in the state of Oregon.

Many states take a “one bite rule” approach to dog bite litigation. In essence, since owners had no reason to expect their dog to bite before the first such incident, they experienced limited legal liability for a dog that wasn’t previously known as “dangerous.” With changes in Oregon dog bite laws, however, there is no longer a “one free bite” allowance.

Understanding the Levels of Liability

In Oregon, there are now three levels of liability when it comes to dog bites:

  1. Common law negligence. In this circumstance, it was foreseeable that the dog would bite, and the owner failed to take any precautions. The owner must consider whether their dog has shown certain behavioral triggers that could lead to biting, such as food aggression. If none of these were present, a court may determine that the owner had no reason to expect or prevent a bite.
  2. Strict liability cause of action. If the owner is fully aware that their dog may have aggressive tendencies, they may even take preventive measures such as using a muzzle. Under strict liability, the owner is essentially maintaining a public hazard and is responsible regardless of the actions they may have taken to prevent injury to others. In this case, if the dog were to break free of its muzzle and bite another person, the owner would still be liable.
  3. Economic damages. Oregon’s legislature created a new level of liability with its new legislation. Under this level of liability, the courts consider owners responsible for any medical expenses caused by the dog bite, regardless of whether the animal is known to be aggressive. Economic damages can also include lost wages and other financial losses. However, noneconomic damages like pain and suffering would still apply to one of the other two levels listed above.

Handling your Dog Bite Claim

If you have been bitten by a dog, the lasting effects can cause serious physical, mental health, and financial issues. At Shlesinger and deVilleneuve, we understand the ins and outs of dog bite legislature and can help you pursue a dog bite claim. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.


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