What To Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

Dayton Uttinger  | 

Dogs are often treated like one the family these days. They might take less money and effort than kids, but they never lose their dependence on their owner. You should always be monitoring your pet, making sure that they’re behaving well, but sometimes they mess up and may act out.

As much as we treat our dogs like humans, they’re animals, and aren’t as capable of thinking ahead.  Dogs bite as a method of defense or protection, but the person they bit might be less than understanding. Ultimately, as its owner, you’ll have to bear some responsibility for your dog’s actions.

What to Do if Your Dog Bites Someone

If your dog bites someone, you need to be very deliberate about your next move. Take steps to contain your dog for the moment. How you do so will depend on the size and temperment of your dog, but you need to get him or her away from the victim as soon as possible. Since you will need to be available to the victim, you might want to call a trusted friend or family member to pick up your dog.

Offer to pay for their hospital bills. These can be expensive, but lawsuits are even more so.  Your hope is that if you fix the damage as best as you can, they won’t sue you. Be courteous and as accommodating as possible. Be sure to exchange contact and insurance information.

Take your dog to a veterinarian to get checked out immediately. Not only will this help identify any diseases your dog might have passed on, but a veterinarian will know how to guide you through the process. Regardless of whether or not you are sued, enroll your dog in some sort of obedience or behavior training. This is not a mistake that you want to happen again.

What to Do if You Get Bit

If you are the victim of a dog bite, then understand that you are in a position of power.  Insist that the owner take care of your hospital bills to begin with. Even if the injury looks relatively minor, you should still see a medical professional. Dogs carry all sorts of bacteria in their mouths that humans aren’t equipped to fight against. You should also report the bite to the police.

However, you will have to bear many financial costs, even if you do win the case.  Examine the severity of your injury and go over the case with your attorney. The individual owner might not have the money to make the case worthwhile, but if it happened on their or a landlord’s property, you might be able to get money from their homeowner’s insurance.

The One Bite Rule Explained

Some states hold that an owner cannot be held responsible for a dog’s actions if he or she didn’t know that it was violent.  Basically, this means that if your dog bites someone once, that’s your “warning” that your dog has a problem and that you need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. If it does, then you could be sued.

This is a relief to some owners whose dogs act “out of character” and lash out unexpectedly, but not all states have the one bite rule. If you are a dog owner, make sure to check your state’s regulations.

Dog Bite Lawsuits: What Might Happen to You and Your Dog

Dog bite lawsuits are different from other types of personal injury lawsuits because you might have to part with more than money.  If this has repeatedly become a problem, you may need to euthanize your dog.

Dog Bite Law: Tort and Liability

A tort is a civil wrong, and tort law regulates what happens to rectify those wrongs. In the case of a dog bite, the dog is seen as your property.  Its actions are your responsibility. Therefore, when your dog bites someone, you can be held liable.

How Does Tort Law Apply to Animals?

Our legal system does not hold animals to the same legal standard as people. However, their actions can still have severe consequences, and somebody needs to be held responsible. There are some exceptions, such as if your dog was provoked or the one bite rule, but generally your dog will be seen as an extension of you.

Dog Bite Lawsuit Settlement Amounts

If you are involved in a dog bite lawsuit, whether plaintiff or defendant, it’s probably better to settle out of court.  Lawsuits can consume a lot of time and money if they drag on into court, and if you can come to a compromise, it’s better for everyone.

Often times it’s insurance companies that actually end up paying. Individual owners often don’t have enough money to make a lawsuit worth the plaintiff’s time. Insurance agencies pay about $32,000 per claim. Plaintiffs don’t get to walk with that much, but that is still much more than the average dog owner could pay out.

Dog bite lawsuits are a painful affair for everyone involved. While the victim was injured, the owner bears a heavy weight of responsibility and worry for their dog. Neither side is a winner in this situation, no matter the settlement amount.


Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/

Dayton is a chronic Wikipedia addict, which is detrimental to her social life but stellar for her writing. She resides in Boise, ID, surrounded by her own frantic outlines, highlighted encyclopedias, and potatoes. The latter was not by choice.

This post was updated January 30, 2018. It was originally published February 1, 2018.