In Hawaii, dog bite injuries result in emergency room visits over a thousand times a year. Although deaths are uncommon, they do occur once every few years. Fortunately Hawaii, like other states, allows dog bite victims to seek compensation for their injuries. Nevertheless, compared to other states, Hawaii dog bite law is rather unique.
The Negligence Standard
Most states apply one of two legal standards to dog bite cases – either strict liability or the “one free bite” rule. Under the strict liability standard, a dog owner is strictly liable for any injury caused by his dog. Under the “one free bite” rule, the owner is liable only if he had prior reason to believe that the dog was dangerous (if the dog had attacked someone before, for example).
Hawaii, by contrast, applies a negligence standard. To win a dog bite case, the victim must show that the dog attack can be traced to some sort of carelessness on the part of the defendant, regardless of whether or not he had reason to know that the dog was dangerous. The negligence standard applies to both dog owners and third parties such as dog trainers.
Hawaii does not recognize a “negligence per se” rule as other states do. This means that the fact that a dog owner broke the law (by ignoring a leash law, for example) does not automatically mean that the owner was negligent, although it can be used as evidence of negligence.
Examples of Negligence
Although each case of negligence is unique and there are no ironclad guarantees of victory, following are some situations that might support a negligence verdict against a dog owner or a third party:
- A business owner allows a stray dog into the premises; especially if children are present
- A dog owner trains his dog as an attack dog and then lets the dog roam freely
- A dog owner violates a local animal control ordinance (such as a leash law) in a manner that leads to a dog attack
- The defendant throws a small dog at the victim
- A defendant allows a dog to roam freely immediately after deliberately antagonizing it
If someone deliberately causes a dog to attack you, you can raise an intentional tort claim. The defendant does not have to be the dog owner or even someone with custody of the dog. Although it is possible to win a punitive damages award in such cases (in addition to compensatory damages), Hawaii courts are quite reluctant to award punitive damages except where the defendant’s conduct was shockingly outrageous. You can also file a criminal complaint against someone who uses a dog to attack you.
If you win a dog bite lawsuit in Hawaii, you will be entitled to compensation for all of your losses. These losses are not limited to economic losses such as medical bills or lost wages – you might, for example, be awarded an amount of “pain and suffering” that far exceeds the amount of your combined economic losses.
The Statute of Limitations
In Hawaii, you generally have two years from the date of a dog bite to file a lawsuit seeking damages.
For more information about Hawaiian dog bite claims, contact an attorney.