In Montana, it is better to be bitten by a dog in a town or a city than out in the countryside, because urban Montana dog bite law is more favorable to dog bite victims than rural Montana dog bite law. There are several different ways you can win a Montana dog bite lawsuit.
The Montana Dog Bite Statute
Under the Montana dog bite statute, a dog owner is strictly liable for bite injuries caused by his dog, even if the dog had never bitten before, and even if the owner took every reasonable safety precaution to prevent his dog from biting anyone. To win, however, the victim must prove that he was not trespassing on the property where the bite occurred and that he did not provoke the dog into attacking him.
The disadvantages of relying on the Montana dog bite statute are that:
- The Montana dog bite statute applies only within the city limits of a Montana incorporated town or city.
- The dog bite statute applies only to bite injuries. It won’t apply if, for example, a dog injures you by chasing you into oncoming traffic or jumping on you and knocking you down.
- The statute applies only to the owner of the dog. This could be problematic if, for example, the defendant carelessly provoked a stray dog into attacking you.
Non-Statutory Grounds of Liability
General Montana personal injury law might offer the best approach to winning a dog bite statute if you were bitten outside of city limits, if the dog injured you without biting you, or if the defendant is not the owner of the dog. Following are three legal theories that you might rely on to win:
- Scienter: The dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s violent propensities due to past behavior by the dog that the owner knew about. This is known as the “one bite rule”.
- General negligence law: The defendant caused the victim’s injury by acting carelessly with respect to the dog.
- Negligence per se: The defendant violated an animal control law (such as a leash law), and this violation led to your injury.
In Montana, a landlord is not necessarily liable for dog bite injuries caused by his tenant’s dog.
Comparative negligence is a concept that allows a defendant to reduce the amount of the plaintiff’s damages in proportion to the plaintiff’s degree of fault, if the plaintiff was partly to blame for his own injury. A court might rule the plaintiff 25 percent at fault and the defendant 75 percent at fault, for example. Although comparative negligence does not apply to lawsuits filed under the dog bite statute (the statute has its own doctrine of provocation), it does apply to lawsuits based in scienter, general negligence and negligence per se.
The Filing Deadline
Montana’s statute of limitations requires you to file a dog bite lawsuit within three years of the date of the injury. Exceptions to this rule are uncommon.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an animal attack, contact a Montana lawyer today.