If you have been injured in a dog attack that occurred in Delaware, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Delaware dog bite law allows you to seek this compensation through the courts by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner or against a third party who was responsible for the attack.
Delaware’s Dog Bite Statute
Delaware courts will issue a judgment against a dog owner whose dog causes injury, death or property damage (including injuries to someone else’s dog) unless:
- The victim provoked the dog,
- The victim was trespassing or attempting to trespass that the time of the attack, or
- The victim was committing a crime or attempting to commit a crime at the time of the attack.
To win the lawsuit, the victim does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent or otherwise at fault.
If Your Dog is Attacked by Another Dog
Since Delaware law considers a dog to be the property of its owner, if your dog is injured or killed by another dog, you might be able to use the Delaware dog bite statute to sue the dog owner for loss of your property. As with a dog attack on a human, you don’t have to prove the owner was at fault to win.
What if the Defendant is Not the Owner of the Dog?
Suppose a business negligently allows a dog into its premises, and the dog attacks you while you are shopping. In this case you might still be able to sue the dog owner, but if the dog is a stray or if the owner lacks the ability to pay a judgment, you might decide to sue the business instead (especially if it generates significant revenue with which to pay a judgment).
If you want to sue someone who is not the owner of the dog, you cannot rely on the Delaware dog bite statute – instead, you will have to sue under a negligence theory of liability and prove that the defendant was somehow at fault for the attack. In the foregoing example, you would need to prove that the business failed to take reasonable steps to protect its customers.
If someone intentionally “sics” a dog on you, you might file a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant (whether or not he is the dog’s owner) on an intentional tort theory of liability. In addition to compensation for your losses, you might be entitled to an additional award of punitive damages. In extreme cases, the defendant might even be prosecuted for a crime.
Beware the Statute of Limitations Deadline
In most cases, Delaware allows you two years from the date of the dog bite to file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, the judge will probably throw your case out of court without looking at the rest of your complaint. Filing a lawsuit means filing a properly formatted complaint with the court – even if the case isn’t finally decided until after the two-year period is up.
If you are seeking an out-of-court settlement, don’t let the opposing party use delaying tactic to lull you into missing the deadline – he will not be motivated to settle with you once he knows you can no longer sue him.
For more information, contact a Delaware attorney and tell them about your potential case.