Potential Dog Bite Lawsuit Issues

Attorney Ben Schwartz and Attorney Rob Collins talk about potential dog bite lawsuit issues in Delaware. Watch this video so you know what to do if your dog bites someone.

Potential Dog Bite Lawsuit Issues

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz and I’m Attorney Rob Collins,

Today we are going to talk about some potential dog bite lawsuit issues. Our law firm does more dog bite personal injury cases than I think any other law firm in the state of Delaware. I brought in Rob Collins who handles most of the dog bite litigation in the law firm. I am going to ask you some questions today. In this video, I am going to ask you a specific question, and that is a question that we get quite often, whether it be from other attorneys or from members of the general public, potential clients, etc.

There is a saying that every dog gets his first bite free. Is that the law in Delaware or is that an urban myth? Well, the one free bite rule is based on common law. Common law said that the owner of a dog is only responsible for injuries caused by that dog once the owner is aware that the dog has dangerous propensities. In effect, that basically meant that if you had no reason to believe your dog was dangerous and it bit someone, you are not on the hook for the injuries and damages caused, but after the first bite, now the owner is on notice that the dog has dangerous propensities. The second bite, third bite and forth bite, the owner is on the hook.

This was the Old Law in Delaware right? This was common law. This was probably going all the way back to England. It has just been that way based on Court decisions over hundreds of years. So, just to give an example, under the old Law, the way it used to be, if I went to the SPCA, I got a nice dog, brought him home and you came over to the house and the dog bit you, would you have a dog bite lawsuit against me? No, probably not, unless you had some reason to know the dog was dangerous. If it had tried to bite somebody and you were able to somehow stop it, well now you are on notice. So the one free bite rule is kind of a loose statement of the actual rule, but it gets the point across.

What is the law now in Delaware? The Delaware legislature passed statutes that totally changed what needs to be proven to make a claim for a dog bite. In Delaware it is essentially strict liability, meaning it does not matter what the owner knew or did not know. In fact, it does not even matter if the dog bites somebody or it is so happy that it knocks somebody down and they break their arm.

The dog’s aggressiveness does not come into play at all. The owner is on the hook for any injuries caused by a dog. In fact, we actually had a case a few years ago where a dog ran out in front of a motorcycle. The motorcyclist swerved to avoid the dog and because the injury was caused by the dog, it was strict liability. There are a few small exceptions, but they make sense. If you are teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog and it bites you, the owner is not going to be on the hook for that. If you are trespassing, attempting to commit a crime against a person or property, the owner is not going to be on the hook if the dog bites somebody. Other than that, if the dog causes injury, the owner is going to be on the hook for the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, scarring; all the normal personal injury aspects of damages.

So the way it is now in Delaware, if I go over to the SPCA and get a dog, you come over to my house to see the new dog and the dog sinks his teeth into you, do you have a case against me? Yeah.

Well, let’s say we decide that the practice of law is not making us enough money and we decide to go out and rob people’s houses at night. We put on a ski mask, we break into somebody’s house and a dog bites us, can we pursue a dog bit lawsuit under strict liability law? Well, you can sue, but you will lose. That is going to be one of the exceptions; attempting to commit a crime against a person or property. Gotcha, okay

Thanks for watching. Rob, thanks for answering the questions today. I am Attorney Ben Schwartz, I am here with Attorney Rob Collins, if you have questions for us about dog bite personal injury cases or the personal injury laws of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or the Mid-Atlantic states in general, send us an e-mail below.

Potential Dog Bite Lawsuit Issues

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