While some states have specific laws regarding injuries caused by dog bites, most states also permit an injured person to recover compensation for injuries caused by a dog bite through the theory of negligence. Common fact scenarios where dog owners are found liable for a bite include: the dog escaping from the yard, the dog on a walk without a leash, the dog escaping through the front door, and the dog biting a second time.
It is important to file a lawsuit before the deadline passes which is called in most states the “statute of limitations.” Most states with specific dog bite statutes have statutes of limitations under those statutes that are the same as their negligence statute of limitations. Below are the negligence deadlines for each state.
One-Year Negligence Statute of Limitations
Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee
Two-Year Negligence Statute of Limitations
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia
Three-Year Negligence Statute of Limitations
Arkansas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin
Four-Year Negligence Statute of Limitations
Florida (2 yrs for wrongful death), Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming
Five-Year Negligence Statute of Limitations
Six-Year Negligence Statute of Limitations
Maine and North Dakota
If a child is injured by a dog, the statute of limitations typically does not begin to run for the child’s injuries until after the child turns eighteen years old. For example, if a child is injured by a dog in Texas, the two-year statute of limitations does not begin until the child’s eighteen birthday. Thus, the child could sue any time before he turns twenty years old. However, the parent’s deadline to file a lawsuit to recover medical expenses and the parent’s mental anguish damages would still only be two years in Texas from the date of injury. The child’s past medical expenses are the obligation of the parent, so the statute of limitations is based on the parent’s deadline to file a lawsuit and not the child’s deadline.
Resolving a Claim
Sometimes a dog bite claim can be resolved without litigation. If the dog owner provides his insurance information to the victim, the victim may make a claim directly with the insurance company. If a settlement is not reached with the insurance company before the statute of limitations deadline, a lawsuit must be filed. If a lawsuit is not filed before the deadline, the insurance company has no obligation to pay. Do not make the mistake of believing that you do not have to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations because you are negotiating with the insurance company.
If you have been injured by a dog, contact The O’Hara Law Firm for a free consultation. Patrick O’Hara is a dog bite attorney that handles dog bite claims in Houston and surrounding areas. The O’Hara Law Firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis. Call us at 832-956-1138.