dog bite legal claimFor millions of Americans, dogs are loving and gentle companions.  Unfortunately, not all dogs are loving and gentle.  And no dog is loving and gentle all the time.  Any dog can bite if provoked, and some dogs will bite even if not provoked.  A dog bite can be a devastating and traumatic event.  Dog bite victims not only suffer physical injury, but can suffer psychological injury as well.  In the United States between 500,000 and 800,000 serious dog bites are reported each year.  Countless more go unreported.  It is important to have some basic information if you or a loved one is bitten by a dog.

Strict Liability

Ohio is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites.  This means that if you are bitten by a dog, the dog’s owner, harborer, or keeper will be held liable for any injuries and/ or damages caused by the dog without having to prove that he or she was negligent in some way.  Simply put, a dog bite victim need only prove that he or she was bitten by the dog and that the bite caused injury or damage.

Owner, Harborer, & Keeper Defined

While the “owner” of a dog is fairly straightforward, the “harborer” or “keeper” can be more difficult to identify.  A “harborer” is a person who controls the place where a dog lives.  For example, if a dog and its owner lived with the owner’s parents, then the parents would be considered harborers of the dog.  Although this definition would seem to include landlords, mostOhiocourts have found that landlords are not responsible for the actions of a tenant’s dog.  One exception to this general rule would be if the rental property had a common area and the dog bite occurred in this common area.  In such a situation, the landlord may be considered a harborer and thus liable for the dog bite.

A “keeper” is a person who maintains some type of control over the dog, even if only on a temporary basis.  If a friend of the dog’s owner walks the dog down the street on a leash, the friend is temporarily the “keeper” of the dog.  If the dog were to break free of the friend and bite someone, the friend may be liable as the dog’s “keeper.”

Exceptions

There are a few exceptions to strict liability in Ohio.  If the dog bite victim was criminally trespassing or attempting to trespass, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog, the dog’s owner, harborer, or keeper will not be held liable.

Statute of Limitations

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, harborer, or keeper.  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.

What To Do When Bitten

If you or a loved one is bitten by a dog there are several things you need to do.  First, seek medical treatment immediately.  Your health is the most important thing to be considered.  Second, notify the proper authorities.  For a dog bite the proper authorities include the police, the dog warden, and the local health department.  Third, document everything.  Take photographs and keep a daily journal of your pain and suffering and your recovery progress.  Fourth, do not speak with the dog’s owner or the owner’s insurance company.  It’s the insurance adjuster’s job to make sure you get as little money as possible.  Adjusters are not your friends, and they defiantly are not there to help you.  Lastly, hire a personal injury attorney.  Personal injury attorneys deal with insurance companies and adjusters everyday and are better qualified to represent you and your interests to insure that you get the maximum amount of recovery.

If you , a friend or family member has become the victim of a dog bite anywhere in Ohio, please contact us by calling 1-800-297-9191 for a FREE consultation with an experienced Ohio dog bite attorney or send us a message to schedule a time to talk.

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