Under Strict Liability, if your dog bites someone, you are liable for injuries caused by that attack, unless you live in a state with a “One-Bite” rule, such as Oregon.

Dog Owners Get a Free Pass with One-Bite Rule

Under a One-Bite statute, a dog’s owner is liable for injuries the dog causes only if the owner knew, or had reason to know, that the dog was likely to cause that kind of injury. If the dog tries to bite someone, from that moment on the owner is on notice that the dog is dangerous, and the owner will be liable if the dog later bites. The owner must then take action to prevent later attacks—or be prepared to pay for it.

Less Serious Behavior Also Puts Dog Owners on Notice

Less serious behavior is also enough to put an owner on notice. For example, if a dog growls or snaps at people, the owner should know that the dog may injure someone. If the dog hurts someone, the owner will be liable, even for the first bite.

Factors Taken into Consideration

The courts take the following factors into consideration with dog bite injuries:

Complaints about the dog: neighbors or others complaining to the owner that a dog has threatened or bitten someone puts the owner on notice that the dog is dangerous.

The dog’s breed: a court usually won’t conclude that an owner should have known, just because of the dog’s breed, that it might injure someone. However, in some states, pit bulls and other breeds, such as Dobermans and German shepherds, have been defined by law as dangerous dogs. If a dispute goes to court, the result will depend on the facts and the judge’s or jury’s attitude.

Warning signs: putting up a “Beware of Dog” sign does not in itself make an owner liable. There is usually other evidence of the dog’s dangerousness.