dog bite laws ohio

Being attacked by a dog is a terrifying experience that no one should have to go through.

Ohio dog bite law makes dog owners responsible for the actions of their animals.

In Ohio, the legal doctrine of strict liability governs cases involving dog bites. Should you or a family member experience a dog bite within the state, the onus of responsibility for both the bite and any ensuing injuries or damages rests squarely upon the shoulders of the dog’s owner, custodian, or keeper. In these instances, there is no requirement for the victim to establish any negligence on the part of the owner, custodian, or keeper.

An Ohio dog bite lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case.

Reach out online or call (419) 455-1410 today to schedule a free consultation, and discover how Aaron can assist you with your claim.

How Does the Ohio Dog Bite Statute Work?

Ohio dog bite law imposes strict liability for injuries caused by dogs. This means that you don’t have to prove negligence to seek compensation. Dog owners are responsible for protecting the public from their dog, even if the dog has never bitten someone or shown any aggressive tendencies.

If someone’s dog causes you injuries, the owner could be liable for your medical expenses and other damages. In some situations, strict liability might extend to other parties. For example, the harborer is the person who controls the place where the dog lives. That could be a situation where the dog owner lives with a family member in that person’s home. The individual who owns the home is the harborer. Another example is a keeper, someone who maintains control of the dog, even on a temporary basis. That might be a friend who is pet-sitting for the dog owner.

And dog bite laws don’t apply just to bites. You can get compensation for any injury or property damage caused by a dog. So if a dog knocked you to the ground or destroyed your expensive landscaping, you may have a claim.

What Is the Difference Between Strict Liability and Negligence?

Strict liability and negligence are two alternatives for proving liability. If your case doesn’t qualify for strict liability, you can pursue a negligence-based claim. Reasons your claim might not qualify include the fact you were trespassing, provoked the dog, or were in the process of committing some other type of crime on the owner’s property. 

Most of the time, you have to prove negligence to recover damages in a personal injury case. This means that you have to prove someone caused your damages by breaching a duty of care, such as by acting carelessly or recklessly.

Strict liability applies to circumstances involving inherent dangers that no amount of care can fully guard against. For accidents governed by strict liability, like Ohio dog bites, you can get compensation without proving that anyone did anything wrong. However, you must prove you were at the location lawfully and had a valid reason to be there. 

You can pursue a dog bite case in Ohio based on either negligence or strict liability.

When Would I Bring a Negligence Claim in a Dog Bite Case?

When a dog injures you, you can seek compensatory damages based on strict liability for things like:

  • Medical bills,
  • Property damage,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Disfigurement, and
  • Lost wages.

However, you can’t seek punitive damages in a strict liability case. Punitive damages are reserved for cases where the defendant behaved egregiously and deserves to be punished.

If you think that this occurred in your case, you would need to prove not only that the defendant was negligent, but that they were grossly negligent.

Gross negligence occurs when someone acts intentionally or with reckless disregard for the safety of others.

For example, if the owner knew that their dog was aggressive and had caused serious injury before, but the owner let the dog run around the neighborhood unsupervised, you might be able to show that they were grossly negligent.

Are There Exceptions I Should Be Aware of?

There are three main exceptions that might prevent you from recovering damages under the dog bite laws in Ohio:

  • You provoked the dog by “teasing, tormenting, or abusing” it;
  • You were attempting to commit a crime, apart from a minor misdemeanor; or
  • You were trespassing or attempting to trespass at the time of the attack.

In Ohio, young children are not usually held to the same standard for provocation. When someone is being friendly with the dog, and it accidentally knocks them over, it won’t likely count as provocation. Strict liability will typically still apply in both of these scenarios. However, if the person claims they unknowingly provoked the dog, they might be forced to pursue a negligence claim. 

Solicitors are explicitly protected by the Ohio dog bite laws, even if they did not have proper solicitation permits, as long as they were on the property only for the purpose of soliciting and didn’t provoke the dog.

Some states allow dog owners to argue that victims assumed the risk of a bite, such as when a “beware of dog” sign is posted. Other examples include people who work with dogs, such as veterinarians, vet assistants, kennel operators, pet sitters, and groomers. These individuals might still have the right to pursue a claim. It’s important to speak with an experienced dog bite attorney in Ohio to discuss your specific situation and what potential exceptions might apply. 

Why Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer in Ohio

Understanding Ohio dog bite laws can be confusing. That’s why you should hire an experienced Ohio dog bite lawyer to assist you. When you have an attorney representing you, we’ll help you identify all potentially responsible parties. You won’t need to determine whether to pursue a strict liability or negligence-based claim alone. Your attorney will help gather and preserve evidence and help you fight for the maximum compensation. 

Reporting a Dog Bite in Ohio

It’s crucial to report a dog bite in Ohio as the Department of Health tracks all animal bites, including dogs that potentially could have exposure to rabies. Reporting should be done within 24 hours.

These reports also help officials classify dogs into the following categories: 

  • Nuisance, where the dog has attempted to bite someone unprovoked, 
  • Dangerous, where the dog bit or injured a person, or
  • Vicious, where a dog has seriously injured or killed a person. 

Once a report is made, the local health department opens an investigation. If the dog’s history shows it has previously attacked or bitten someone, the investigator might visit the dog owner’s home. The dog will also be subject to quarantine. The length of quarantine will vary depending on the dog’s vaccination status. Dogs with up-to-date vaccinations may be held for 10 days. A dog without their current vaccinations could be quarantined for four months. 

Dangerous Dog Classification

Under Ohio dog bite laws, a dog must be registered as dangerous once it bites, harms, or attacks someone. Dangerous dogs are subject to strict restrictions, such as the requirement to be on a leash less than six feet long unless it’s a hunting dog. Owners must keep them in a locked cage or yard and have a tag that designates them as dangerous. The dog must be registered with the local Ohio county auditor too. 

Ohio does not require an owner to immediately euthanize a dog after it bites someone. The decision to put a dog down typically rests with the dog’s owner. However, if the dog is wild and has no known owner, it might be humanely euthanized. 

How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Claim?

The Ohio statute of limitations for personal injury applies to dog bite claims. It gives you two years from the date of the injury to file suit. If you do not file within the limitations period, you may be barred from pursuing compensation.

Potential Complications of Dog Bite Injuries

Even seemingly minor dog bite injuries have the potential to turn more serious, which is why you should not rule out pursuing a claim without first speaking to a lawyer. Dogs can have different kinds of deadly bacteria in their mouths and saliva. Rabies, a deadly neurologic disease, is one of the most common risks. It primarily spreads through a bite from an infected dog.

All dog owners should have their dogs vaccinated for rabies and follow up with regular boosters. Rabies symptoms can appear days to months after exposure. When you are bit by a dog who has no proof of vaccine history, you might need to get a rabies vaccination. Waiting until you get symptoms is likely too late. 

Another risk is a MRSA infection. MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria mutated to become resistant to antibiotics. When left untreated, it can turn into a serious infection and spread into the bloodstream, where it becomes life-threatening. 

Contact Us Today for Expert Guidance on Ohio Dog Bite Law

If you suffered an injury caused by a dog in Ohio, you should contact a dog bite attorney right away. Aaron Bensinger has helped many clients throughout Northwest Ohio with their dog bite claims, and he is well-versed in Ohio dog bite law.

He has recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for victims of personal injury just like you. Call or contact Bensinger Law today at (419) 455-1410 for a free consultation, and learn how Aaron can help with your claim.

Author Photo Aaron L. Bensinger

Aaron L. Bensinger is an Ohio attorney serving personal injury and civil litigation clients. He has extensive trial experience and makes client service is his primary focus. As a partner at Balyeat, Leahy, Daley, Miller & Bensinger, LLC, Aaron happily works in Lima, OH, and serves the entire Northwest region of the state and beyond.

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