Ohio has one of the highest number of annual dog bite claims in the nation – it is consistently second only to California. Ohio’s dog bite law is comprehensive, covering a number of legal theories and possible circumstances. As a dog bite victim, you might rely on Ohio’s specialized dog bite statute or, alternatively, on its general principles of personal injury law (mostly judge-made law).
The Ohio Dog Bite Statute
Like most U.S. states, Ohio is a “strict liability” state. Strict liability means “liability without fault.” If you can show that (i) the defendant is the owner of the dog (“owner” includes a keeper or a harborer of the dog), (ii) the dog bit or otherwise injured you, and (iii) the damages that you claim arose from the dog’s misbehavior, then you can win your case and collect damages without ever having to prove that the dog owner did anything wrong. In Ohio, a dog owner simply assumes the risk that his dog might harm someone. The dog bite statute also covers injuries that a dog might inflict upon your property, including your own dog.
There are three defenses to Ohio’s “strict liability” rule, however – the owner will not be liable under the statute if:
- The victim was trespassing on the owner’s property
- The victim was attempting to commit or in the process of committing a crime (minor misdemeanors such as “toilet-papering a tree on Halloween don’t count)
- The victim provoked the dog on the owner’s property
Common Law Causes of Action
If any of the foregoing three exceptions apply to you, you can try suing under a common law cause of action such as scienter or negligence. In either case, you will have to prove more to win than you would have to prove in a strict liability case based on the Ohio dog bite statute.
Scienter: Under the common law doctrine of scienter, you can win a dog bite case by showing that, before the attack occurred, the owner knew or should have known that the dog was likely to attack someone. This can be established by referring to the dog’s previous behavior – biting someone else, or behaving aggressively enough to put the owner on notice that the dog might bite someone in the future.
Negligence: You can win a dog bite lawsuit in Ohio by showing that the dog owner handled the dog carelessly, and that this carelessness caused your injury. The owner of a day care center, for example, might be negligent for leaving her dog unattended in the vicinity of a small child who naively provoked the dog into biting him, even if the dog had never acted aggressively before.
If the dog owner intentionally encouraged his dog to bite you, he can be held liable for any injuries that you suffered, unless he was justified in inciting the dog (if you assaulted him first, for example). This kind of behavior could also lead to a criminal prosecution
The Ohio Statute of Limitations
Ohio law requires you to file a dog bite lawsuit by the second anniversary of the date that the dog bite occurred (this deadline also applies to non-bite injuries). It is unlikely that a court will agree to even hear your claim if you miss the deadline, even by a single day.
Don’t wait. Contact an Ohio dog bite lawyer now.