Dog Bite Victim Guide
What To Do After A Dog Bites You
No doubt, liability for a dog bite is confusing at best in Oregon! Irrespective of that, it’s important to take certain steps if you or one you love is unfortunate enough to fall victim to a dog attack.
Steps To Take After a Dog Bite:
- Seek medical attention! Dog bites can result in infection, nerve damage, disfigurement, temporary disability/permanent disability and/or emotional distress. It is important to get proper care.
- Document the incident! Photograph your injuries. If you have access to the scene, take pictures.
- Identification of the dog and owner are important! Be sure you know which dog bit, and also who owned (or had possession) of the dog at the time of the attack.
- Report the bite! If possible, report the incident to your local animal control or police to ensure that the incident has been officially recorded. They may also be knowledgeable of who the dog’s owner is, prior dog bites it was involved in, its vaccination records, etc.
Does the dog have a history of viciousness? Were proper precautions taken to keep the dog under control?
Our pets are our companions - they enrich our lives and enjoy our attention. According to many, Oregon is the most pet-friendly state in the U.S., with just under 60% of our households having dogs. Thus, there are a LOT of dogs in Oregon! And sadly, that results in a LOT of dog attacks.
Understanding Oregon’s dog bit laws can be difficult. Our state has several layers of liability for dog owners, including general negligence coupled with statutory foreseeability relative to economic damages, plus strict liability with dogs that have known “dangerous propensities abnormal to its class.” A dog’s “dangerous propensities” include biting, lunging, forcefully jumping on people, and other behaviors that are likely to harm.
As a potential dog bite victim (and also as a dog owner), it is important to understand what is commonly referred to as “The One Bite Rule” in Oregon. Under this rule, once a dog bites or attacks someone, the owner is presumed to know their dog has the potential to behave in a vicious manner. In other words, the owner is charged with knowing that the dog has “dangerous propensities abnormal to its class.”
If a person is charged with this knowledge – knowing or having reason to know that their dog has “dangerous propensities abnormal to its class” – Oregon provides that they are “strictly liable” for any such harm. This means the dog owner is liable for any damage the dog does, no matter what they do to prevent it. This strict liability law stems from the government wanting to hold people liable for knowingly creating a public nuisance.
Suppose the dog owner does not have knowledge that their dog has “dangerous propensities abnormal to its class,” and their dog bites someone. In that case, Oregon law provides that the owner be charged with knowledge that the bite was “foreseeable” but only relative to the victim’s economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses). In other words, they are required to reasonably protect others from harm, but that does not mean they are strictly liable. If they were reasonable in trying to protect folks from their dog biting them, they are not liable for the resulting economic damages. However, if they were unreasonable in doing so, then they are responsible for their economic damages.
Suppose the dog owner does not have knowledge that their dog has “dangerous propensities abnormal to its class,” and their dog bites someone. In that case, Oregon law provides that the owner is not charged with knowledge that the bite was “foreseeable,” but only relative to the victim’s noneconomic damages, also known as “pain and suffering.” In that case, the victim must prove that the dog bite was foreseeable – that the owner knew or should have known that the dog might bite prior to the bite occurring itself – and that the dog owner was not reasonable in protecting others from harm in light of that knowledge. If they cannot prove both foreseeability and unreasonableness, then they cannot recover their noneconomic damages.
Damages to which the Victim is Entitled:
Dog bites create liability for the same type of damages that is available to other types of injury victims. This includes:
- Past medical and counseling bills
- Future medical and counseling bills
- Lost wages
- Noneconomic damages (“pain and suffering”)
Noneconomic damages may also be available to a close family member who witnesses the dog attack and suffers severe emotional distress.
Do you have a case?
Thankfully, most dog bite cases are resolved outside of court which allows for faster resolution. However, one needs to know their rights under the law with respect to both dog bite liability as well as damages to which they are entitled. As this short blog hopefully makes clear, those waters are often muddy, requiring some level of expertise to successfully navigate.
It is also important to know that Oregon’s Statue of Limitations for dog bite claims, which is generally two years since it falls under the umbrella of “personal injury.” Children who are injured can often have additional time, though the calculation is dependent on their birth date. If you or your loved one has suffered an injury due to a dog bite, it is important that you discuss the matter with a qualified attorney in your area, and in a timely fashion.
Understanding the complexity of Oregon’s Negligence and Strict Liability rules can be difficult to navigate. Our attorneys at DWC are seasoned professionals who help people just like you in prosecuting your dog bite claim. For further information, call (541) 617-0555. We are happy to chat!