Like many states, Nebraska has passed a statute that deals specifically with dog bite liability. Although the statute contains loopholes, even if a loophole applies, it is possible to file a lawsuit under one of the common law theories of liability (without relying on the statute). Nebraska dog bite law is considered more favorable to dog bite victims than the laws of many other states.
Nebraska’s dog bite statute holds a dog owner strictly liable (liable without fault) for a dog bite injury, as long as the victim was not trespassing at the time of the attack. It does not matter how careful the dog owner was to prevent the dog from biting, nor how well-behaved the dog was up until the time of the bite – in Nebraska, a dog owner is essentially the insurer of his dog’s peaceful behavior. The statute also applies to non-bite injuries – if you break your leg while fleeing from a dog, for example.
The “Playful Dog” and Trespassing Exceptions
If you were bitten by a dog whose aggressive playfulness simply got out of hand, or if you were trespassing at the time of the dog bite (whether or not on the dog owner’s property), you cannot use the Nebraska dog bite statute. Instead, you will have to proceed under a different theory of liability, such as:
- Scienter: The dog owner either knew or should have known that the dog was likely to behave aggressively while playing. Normally, you would prove this by showing that the dog has a history of aggressive playfulness.
- Negligence: You could win your case by showing that the dog owner behaved negligently (carelessly) in handling the dog, and that this negligence caused your injury. This theory of liability might even apply to an injury caused by a stray dog, as long as the negligence of a third party was involved.
- Negligence per se: Your injury arose from the dog owner’s violation of an animal control ordinance. For example, if you were injured by a pit bull in one of Nebraska’s many towns that ban this breed of dog, you could argue that the dog owner was negligent for harboring the dog in town at all.
Statute of Limitations
Nebraska’s statute of limitations for dog bite claims is four years from the date of the bite. This means that you must file a formal complaint with a court within four years, or your case will be thrown out of court. Only in rare cases, such as a latent injury that was not immediately diagnosed, is this deadline likely to be extended.
Remember that even while negotiating and out-of-court settlement, it is the threat of a lawsuit that keeps the other side at the negotiating table. If you miss the statute of limitations deadline, the dog owner (or his insurance company) will no longer be motivated to negotiate with you. Remember also that your case does not have to be concluded within four years – you simply have to have filed the complaint by that time.
Don’t wait any longer. Talk to a Nebraska dog bite lawyer.