In America, some states have dog bite statutes in place while other states utilize common law when it comes to dog bite attacks. Often, states with dog bite statutes in place are more favorable to victims of such attacks.
Rhode Island has a dog bite statute in place, but whether or not it applies is predicated on whether or not the attack occurred within the dog owner’s enclosed area. In cases where statutory law is not applicable, the common law “one-bite rule” may be applicable. A dog owner may also be held liable for acting negligently, breaking a similar law (such as the leash law), or for intentional conduct that causes the dog to bite.
Statutory Law—Strict Liability
The dog bite statute in Rhode Island provides for strict liability unless the dog was within its owner’s enclosed area. If an attack occurs on the dog owner’s enclosed land area then the statute does not apply, but that does not mean that the dog owner will not be held liable.
Rhode Island’s dog bite statute contains additional features that extends liability:
- Any “keeper” of the dog that bites another person will be held liable along with owners of the dog
- Any sort of injury caused by a dog, whether or not a bite, brings the incident within the coverage of the law
- A victim of a dog bite does not need to be human to make the law applicable to the circumstances—victims can also be horses, dogs, other domestic animals, and farm animals
- After the first bite, a victim may be able to recover double damages from a dog who has attacked another person previously
Common Law “One-Bite Rule”
To meet the requirements of the “one-bite rule” a victim must prove that the dog owner knew that the dog had vicious propensities, which can be shown by previous attacks on other people. After the first bite, a dog owner or keeper is liable for double damages if the same dog attacks again. If a victim successfully proves that the dog owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensities or if a victim is attacked by a dog that previously engaged in behavior that brought the dog within the state’s dog bite law, then the victim is entitled to double damages.
Negligence is a failure to exercise care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances. A victim may be able to recover under the common law doctrine of negligence if the victim can prove that the dog owner’s conduct failed to measure up to a reasonable standard of care. Furthermore, the victim must prove that the dog owner’s negligent conduct resulted in damages that were reasonably foreseeable.
So, if a dog owner was acting negligently it does not matter if the incident was the dog’s first bite or if the incident occurred inside the owner’s private property. Should a victim prove that the dog owner acted negligently, the owner will be responsible for paying damages in Rhode Island.
For more help, talk to a Rhode Island dog bite lawyer.