Originally published July 5, 2021. Updated June 16, 2023.
Dogs make great pets; however, they require training and proper handling, especially large dogs. A dog owner must be able to control their dog to prevent injury to others, and a dog doesn’t have to be aggressive to cause injuries; an overly excitable dog can cause injuries without meaning to, for which the owner can be liable. Even the act of simply walking a dog sends countless people to the emergency room every day. Between 2001 and 2020, more than 422,000 Americans were hurt walking their dog. When a dog causes its owner to fall accidentally, it’s one thing. But it’s an entirely different matter when a non-aggressive dog injures another person by knocking them over.
Non-Aggressive Dog Attack
You can suffer personal injury from more than just a dog bite. Dogs can jump on you or knock you over, resulting in broken bones. A dog could run out in front of your bike or cause another type of accident inadvertently. Any of these cases are considered a non-aggressive dog attack.
Children are at a higher risk of injury from non-aggressive dog attacks. They can be startled by animals that bark aggressively, causing them to fall. Dogs may also chase children into the street. Children’s smaller size means even small and medium sized dogs can cause significant injury unintentionally.
Non-aggressive dog injuries can still result in serious damage and high medical costs. Common injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Nerve damage
- Facial injuries and disfigurement
- Torn ACLs and MCLs in the knee
- Traumatic brain injury
- And even spinal cord injury
If you or a loved one have suffered from a non-aggressive dog attack, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
Many states have laws that make owners liable for dog-bite injuries. These are known as strict liability laws and the “one-bite rule.” However, when a dog causes an injury that isn’t a bite, the owner can still be held liable for that action.
This is because dog owners have a duty to control their dog’s behavior. If the dog owner failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the behavior that resulted in your injury, they were negligent.
When examining a personal injury case, the court may also consider whether the injury you suffered was reasonably foreseeable. This means that the dog owner should have expected an injury to occur based on the circumstances.
For example, if an owner knew that their dog liked to jump on people when meeting them, and they never stopped or corrected the dog, then they could be held liable if someone was knocked to the ground and injured when the dog jumped on them.
A dog owner may not be held liable for their dog’s actions if they took reasonable care to prevent them. Sometimes injuries happen anyway.
Fences, chains, and warning signs all fall under reasonable care. If your injury resulted from a dog escaping a fence or breaking a chain, you aren’t likely to have a personal injury case.
The dog’s history also plays into what is considered reasonable care for the owner. If their dog has previously acted dangerously or in a way that could pose a danger, they should try to prevent the behavior or warn others to remove themselves from the potentially harmful situation. Owners who don’t chain or otherwise restrain dogs with a history of chasing have failed to take reasonable care.
Occasionally, the dog breed will also affect what is considered reasonable care. For breeds known to be dangerous, the duty of care might be higher since the owner should be aware of the breed’s tendencies.
Exceptions to Liability
In certain situations, dog owners aren’t liable for injuries caused by their dog, even if they acted negligently. If you suffered an injury from a dog because you were trespassing or otherwise breaking the law, it’s unlikely the owner will be held liable.
Working dog handlers such as police, military, and airport security personnel also have liability exceptions when those dogs injure someone while working.
Dealing With Insurance
The dog owner’s homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policy may cover non-aggressive dog injuries that occur on their property. You can file a claim to receive compensation for your injuries, but keep in mind that the insurance company wants to settle your claim for the lowest amount possible. They may use dishonest tactics to get you to settle for less than you deserve.
When communicating with an insurance adjuster, here are a couple important tips to help your case:
- Use facts and evidence to represent your case.
- Avoid giving your opinion or volunteering extra information.
Minor injuries can usually be settled quickly, but more extensive injuries like broken bones and nerve damage can take time. It can be helpful to turn to a dog bite lawyer to help you navigate the process and leave the communication to them.
Your Syracuse Dog Bite Attorney
Even friendly dogs can cause severe harm that leaves you with significant medical bills. You may be entitled to damages for your non-aggressive dog injury. Turn to an experienced New York dog bite lawyer to get the compensation you deserve. At Catalano Law, we can develop a winning legal strategy and help you navigate any legal hurdles. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.