There was a time when the common law “one-bite rule” guided the judgements on dog bite cases in the United States. The owner could only be held liable for a dog attack if he knew that the dog had aggressive tendencies, or if the dog had attacked in the past. In other words, the burden of proof lay with the victim of the attack.
Many states have changed dog bite laws to hold owners accountable for the animal’s behavior regardless of its past tendencies, and to require owners of aggressive animals to confine them. The gradual increase in the number of dog attacks, especially attacks on children and the elderly, has highlighted the need for greater accountability on the part of the owner.
The sad toll on the victims of dog bite attacks
It is estimated that 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States each year. Dog bite victims experience more than $1 billion in financial losses annually, and in 2018 alone, close to 27,000 individuals had to have reconstructive surgery from wounds inflicted by dog bites. Dog bite-related emergency room visits also occurred four times more often in rural communities in 2008.
The statistics on dog bite attacks show not only the prevalence of this issue, but also that breed-specific incidents keep appearing. From 2005 to 2019, pit bull terriers killed Americans at a rate 6.5 times higher than the next closest breed, rottweilers.
Infants from 0-2 years old made up a quarter of those fatalities, and in 43.6% of incidents involving injuries, parents were present at the time. Among all dog breeds, when a dog bite occurred the animal knew the patient 53% of the time. However, pit bulls were more likely to attack a stranger without provocation.
Dog bite laws in Kentucky
In Kentucky, dog bite laws hold the owner strictly liable for all damages in an attack, including to the victim, another person’s livestock or property, or to the victim’s pet. The law also permits anyone who witnesses the attack to seize or kill the animal.
Kentucky also applies comparative negligence in cases where the victim may have contributed to or provoked an attack, for example by trespassing on a neighbor’s property or approaching an aggressive animal. In such cases the court determines a percentage of responsibility to the owner and the victim.
In all cases, however, a statute of limitations for pursuing a claim applies. When pursuing a claim after a dog bite attack, it is important to know your rights and to get help so that you can get the compensation you deserve.