Man’s best friend can cause serious injuries and costly damages to members of society. Unfortunately, dog bites are very common and can cause serious, sometimes permanent, injuries. In addition to physical damage, psychological trauma often occurs and the treatment for all injuries is often very costly. So, if you are a victim of a dog bite attack in Vermont, who is held liable for the damages? Who is legally responsible for the incident?
There are two ways that dog bite victims can recover damages in Vermont, either under the “one-bite rule” or under a negligence claim, but damages can be reduced or eliminated by the comparative fault rule.
Vermont, and a minority of other states, adheres to the common law “one-bite rule.” There is no dog bite or dangerous dog statute in the state, so common law liability applies. The “one-bite rule” states that a dog and its owner can get off scot free for the dog’s first mauling or killing of another human being. Generally, the dog owner will not be held legally responsible or liable for injuries to persons or property unless the owner had some reason to know the animal was a probable source of danger. This rule is not very victim friendly, and often causes injured parties to suffer without hope of recovery.
In some situations, victims can also recover in another way – through a negligence claim.
In Vermont, dog owners can be held liable for damages inflicted by their dog as long as the plaintiff proves that the owner’s negligence caused the injury. As with all unintentional tort claims, the victim must prove the dog owner had a duty, that his actions or inactions breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of the incident and injuries sustained.
Owners of domestic animals have a duty to act as a reasonably prudent person and protect other members of society from injuries their pet may cause. If the dog owner fails to meet that standard, and if the dog bite occurs as a proximate cause of that breach, then a victim claiming negligence could prove liability against the dog owner.
Comparative Fault Rule
In some personal injury cases, the person you are trying to hold responsible for your injuries, may argue that you are partly to blame for the underlying accident that caused your injuries. If you share some fault, then Vermont’s comparative fault rule states that the amount of damages you can collect may be reduced or eliminated.
In dog bite cases, Vermont uses a limited comparative fault rule that states if the victim shares less than 50% of the fault, their total damages is reduced by the equal value of percentage of fault assigned to them. If you share over 50% of the fault, the victim cannot collect anything from the other at-fault party.
Talk with a Vermont dog bite lawyer if you or a loved one has been hurt.