Generally, dog owners are responsible for injuries their dogs may cause; in Wisconsin, dog-bite statutes as well as common law principles determine liability for such injuries.
Thus, there are two ways to seek recovery in Wisconsin:
- Statutory Law based on state Dog Bite Statutes
- Negligence and Scienter based upon Common Law principles
Dog Bite Statutory Law
If you are bitten by a dog in Wisconsin, the state dog-bite statute holds dog owners strictly liable for the resulting damages. Strict liability makes a person legally responsible for damages regardless of their intent, fault, or knowledge. So, no matter if you knew or should have known your dog may bite someone, you are automatically responsible for any injuries your dog causes.
Dog owners also face other statutory penalties depending on if they knew or had notice that the dog may inflict injuries upon someone else. For example, if the dog owner knew that the dog had caused previous injuries, then the owner must pay double the amount of damages.
Common Law for Dog Bites
In addition, in Wisconsin you may seek recovery under common law claims of scienter and negligence depending on the situation. Under common law there are two distinct claims to recovery that depends upon: whether the dog owner knew of the animal’s dangerous propensity to cause harm and/or whether the dog owner should have known the animal could foreseeably cause harm.
With Knowledge: Scienter refers to intent or knowledge of wrongdoing, which means that the offending party has knowledge of the “wrongness” of an act or event prior to committing it. This applies to dog bite situations when a dog owner had prior knowledge of the dangerous propensities of the dog.
Without Knowledge: If the harm is reasonably foreseeable to occur, then the dog owner will still be held liable for the dog’s actions and will be responsible for compensating the injured party. The dog owner does not need to have prior knowledge of their dog’s dangerous propensity, since that is not essential to recovery under a negligence theory.
The elements that are necessary to recover under this common law claim include: duty, breach, causation, and damages. So the injured party must be able to prove the dog owner had a duty to protect society from harm resulting from their dog, that the owner breached that duty through their actions or inaction, that the breach caused the harm to occur, and that injuries were suffered.
Don’t wait. Get help if you or a loved one has been injured. Find a Wisconsin dog bite lawyer now.