Nevada is one of the few U.S. states without a specific dog bite statute. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a legal remedy if you are bitten by a dog in Nevada, however – you can always file a lawsuit under Nevada’s general personal injury law. In some cases, the dog’s owner can even face criminal prosecution.
Harry v. Smith and Nevada Negligence Law
Since negligence law is judge-made law (not based on any statute passed by the legislature), it is governed by precedents formed in previous Nevada dog bite lawsuits. The pre-eminent Nevada dog bite negligence case is Harry v. Smith, a 1995 case that established what you have to prove to win a dog bite case under negligence law:
- The defendant failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent the injury (the defendant doesn’t even have to be the dog owner – in some cases a third party can be held liable)
- The victim was injured because of the defendant’s lack of due care
- The victim’s claimed damages (medical bills, lost work time, pain and suffering, etc.) arose from the dog bite injury.
In court, what matters is which facts you can prove and how the court interprets these facts. One way you can prove negligence is by showing that the dog had bitten someone before (or had acted aggressively), and that the owner knew about it yet failed to take appropriate safety precautions – by muzzling the dog, for example.
Of course, the defendant might argue that the dog’s history of violence justified only leashing the dog, that the dog was leashed when the bite occurred, and that failure to muzzle the dog did not constitute “negligence” under Nevada law. The issue of the definition of “negligence” is where lawyers would likely fight it out in court.
Another way to prove negligence in Nevada is to prove that the dog owner violated a dog control ordinance and that, absent the violation, the attack that injured you was not likely to have occurred. Once you have proven that the owner broke the law, the owner will not be allowed to argue that the owner’s failure to comply with the law did not constitute “negligence” – breaking the law is considered “negligence per se” in Nevada.
The Nevada Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations determines the deadline by which you must file a lawsuit in a Nevada court. In dog bite cases, the deadline is normally two years after the date that the bite occurred. If you try to file after the deadline, the court will almost certainly dismiss your lawsuit without even hearing it
“Dangerous” Dogs and “Vicious” Dogs
In Nevada, a dog can be declared “dangerous” if it acts aggressively without provocation twice within 18 months, while either off its owner’s property or not confined in an enclosure, in a manner that threatens “substantial bodily harm”. Once a dog is declared “dangerous”, the dog owner is strictly liable for any injuries it causes – in other words, you can win a lawsuit by showing that the dog attacked you after having been declared “dangerous”, without showing any further negligence on the part of the owner.
If a “dangerous” dog continues to behave aggressively, it can be declared a “vicious” dog. If a “vicious” dog attacks and seriously injures someone, the owner can be charged with a felony.
Talk to a Nevada dog bite lawyer if you or a loved one have been injured.