A dog bite can happen to adults or children, and may result in physical or mental trauma. In addition to the injuries, possible infection, or disfigurement, a person may be reluctant to come into contact with any animal in the future.
In Ohio, legislators have acknowledged this possibility by creating a law that holds the owner or keeper of a dog responsible for this malicious action. To start a legal claim, you must first make a few decisions. For that reason, it is wise to speak with a personal injury attorney to weigh all of your options.
How Often Are People Bit By Dogs?
It’s unfortunate that many people suffer injury because of a dog bite. This happens frequently in Ohio. In 2014, Ohio had the second-highest number of insurance claims for dog bites, even though the state is seventh in the U.S. population-wise. In that year, the average cost per claim was $21,983. This shows that not only do dog bites occur, they are often severe.
What Are the Legal Options in Ohio?
In Ohio there are two ways to take legal action against a dog owner or keeper for injuries that result from a dog bite. One is under state statutue, ORC 955.28. The other is to sue under the common law of negligence. These two options require you to prove different things, but also have different potential outcomes.
State Statute (Strict Liability)
Under the statute, you do not have to show that the owner or keeper knew the dog might bite. As an injured person, you just have to demonstrate that the person in question was the owner or keeper of the dog, that the dog caused your injuries, and the amount of your damages.
The owner has a few defences, however; if you were trespassing or committing a crime, or teasing the dog, the owner might not have to pay for the damages that resulted from the bite. The damages you can recover, otherwise, are those that flow directly from the incident, such as medical costs, or property loss or damage.
Common Law (Negligence)
Negligence is the legal basis for most personal injury lawsuits. If you opt to choose this route and not use the statute, you have to show the owner knew the dog had the propensity to act aggressively. This is the “one free bite” rule: if a dog bites once, the owner should have an idea that behavior might happen again. If the dog had never been aggressive, that might be enough to cause this type of lawsuit to fail.
While it’s easier to take legal action under the statute, you do not have access to punitive damages, as you would in a negligence case. Punitive damages are compensation for unacceptable behavior on the part of the owner, over and above the direct costs you incurred because of the dog bite.
What’s the Best Option?
In Ohio, it is possible to take both legal actions at the same time. For that reason, some people living with the after effects of a dog bite may do just that. In order to best assess what’s right for you and your family, contact FDS Law. As personal injury attorneys in Ohio, we have spent the past 40 years taking care of people when they need support the most. During a free consultation, we can discuss the next steps toward recovery after a dog bite injury. Contact us today to make an appointment.