Dog owners have certain legal obligations to ensure that their pet does not harm another person. In the event that your dog bites someone, you may be held responsible for that person's injuries and be obliged to pay any medical bills or other expenses related to the incident. Here is a closer look at this important issue. 

One Bite Rule

In a minority of states, dog owners are give a certain amount of legal protection by a law known as the "one-bite" rule. Under this legal concept, you might not be held responsible for your dog biting someone if the dog has no history of biting and you had no reason to believe the animal could be dangerous. So, if your pet bites someone for the first time, you may be off the hook for compensating the victim. Certain stipulations usually apply. For example, if you allowed your dog to be in a public place without a leash, the rule could be waived. 

Strict Liability

In the majority of states another rule called strict liability applies. This law holds the owner responsible for a dog's actions even if the owner is unaware that the dog has shown any tendency to bite. 

Possible Defenses 

You have a variety of possible defenses if your dog bites someone and the victim expects you to compensate them for any injuries. The specific defenses that are allowed under the law will depend on the relevant statutes of your state, but typically someone trespassing on your property loses the right to sue.

Proving that the person provoked your dog or was engaged in committing a crime are also acceptable defense in many cases. Another possible defense is that the person who was bitten took an unacceptable risk, such as climbing a barrier to pet the animal even though it was barking.  

In certain instances, a defense might be waived. In California, for example, provocation is not an allowable defense if the victim is a child younger than 5. 

Insurance Issues 

Typically, you will be covered for any harm done by your pet under your homeowner's insurance or your renter's insurance policies. Some policies might specifically exclude dog bites, however, so check your coverage with your agent. If you are not covered, you can purchase coverage from your agent or another insurer. 

Dog bites are a serious issue and can land an owner in some legal hot water if someone is bitten by their pet. If your dog bites another person, you may need expert legal assistance to resolve the issue. For more information, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.