Man’s best friend can sometimes become his worst enemy. Millions of dog bites occur in the United States every year, and hundreds of thousands require medical attention. Although most states have enacted dog bite statutes to govern lawsuits filed by victims, Kansas has enacted no specific dog bite statute. Instead, dog bite lawsuits are governed by judicial precedent – previous court decisions in similar cases.
The “One Free Bite” Rule
The “one free bite” rule allows a dog bite victim to receive compensation from a dog owner if (i) the dog had acted aggressively before and (ii) the dog owner knew about it. The idea is that once a dog puts its owner on notice that it is potentially dangerous, the owner assumes the risk of any liability that might arise if the dog later attacks someone. Despite the name, an actual bite is not necessary.
Although you cannot use the “one free bite” rule to win a dog bite lawsuit if the owner had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous until it attacked you, depending on the facts of your case you might be able to rely on another theory of liability.
Violations of Statutes and Ordinances
If you can prove that the dog owner or handler violated an animal control law with respect to the dog that attacked you, and that absent the violation the attack would not have occurred, you might win your case under the Kansas negligence per se doctrine. The negligence per se doctrine asserts that violation of a law is automatically negligence.
Animal control laws in Kansas vary by city and county – one city may have a leash law, for example, while another city may not. Since some localities completely ban certain breeds of dogs such as pit bulls from living within city limits, you might win your case if you were attacked by a pit bull in one of these localities.
You may need to rely on traditional negligence liability (rather than negligence per se) to assert a claim arising from an injury caused by a dog that did not act aggressively. A large dog, for example, might jump up on you and knock you down a flight of stairs, or it might frighten a small child into the street and oncoming traffic. The key to winning the case is to prove a dog owner or handler failed to exercise reasonable care that the dog would not injure someone.
Assault and Battery
In some cases, a dog owner or handler will use his dog as a weapon in order to intentionally injure you. Unless the attack was justified (if the owner was acting in self-defense, for example), you can sue him for both compensatory and punitive damages. You may also file a criminal complaint.
Attacking Your Pet
Kansas law holds a dog owner liable for damages if his dog kills, injures or harasses another domestic animal.
The Filing Deadline
The deadline for filing a lawsuit over a dog attack is two years from the date of the attack, except that you only have one year to file a lawsuit for assault and battery.
If you or a loved one have been hurt, get legal help. Find a Kansas dog bite attorney now.