Dog bites can often leave victims with permanent injuries, lost wages, expensive medical bills, and emotional distress. In Wyoming and other states, pet owners have a duty to keep their dogs from harming members of society, but sometimes they are not legally responsible for what injuries their canine friend causes. So if you are bitten in Wyoming by someone else’s dog, who is responsible for paying the damages? Who is liable?
Generally, dog owners are responsible for injuries their animals may cause—but it depends on the circumstances and on state law. Since Wyoming does not have a Dog Bite Statute or a Dangerous Dog Statute, the common law of negligence and/or strict liability applies. Thus there are two ways to seek recovery:
(1) An injured person can recover damages caused by a dog if he or she proves that the owner’s negligence caused the injury.
(2) A victim can also recover under a theory of strict liability in cases where the dog owner knew, or should have known, that the dog had vicious propensities.
Negligence Claims for Dog Bites in Wyoming
Negligence does not require intent to cause harm. Rather, negligence occurs when an individual fails to act as a reasonable person should and that failure harms someone to whom he/she owes a duty. To prove negligence there are four elements that must be established: duty, breach, causation, and damages. If you are bitten by a dog because the owner was careless, and the harm was not intentional, then you may claim the owner was negligent, and thus, liable.
Even the best-intentioned dog owners can be held responsible for damages as a result of their negligent actions. Whether or not someone acted negligently is a question that must be determined based on the facts in that case. Liability due to negligence then comes down to this question: Did the dog’s owner act reasonably under the circumstances? If so, then the owner has no legal liability.
If you are bitten by a dog and try to recover damages by showing that the pet owner was negligent, you must show that the pet owner owed a duty of care to you, that the pet owner breached that responsibility, that the breach was the proximate cause of the injury, and that the injuries resulting from the pet owner’s actions were reasonably foreseeable.
Strict Liability Claims for Dog Bites in Wyoming
Common law strict liability for dog bites, often called the “one-bite rule,” says a dog owner is liable only if the owner knew or should have known that the dog was likely to cause that type of injury. So if your dog tries to bite someone, from then on you are put on notice that the dog is dangerous, and if the dog subsequently bites someone, you will be held liable. Thus, liability for animal attacks often hinges on whether the dog owners had knowledge, or should have had knowledge, of a dangerous propensity in their animal.
For example, if a mailman has complained to a pet owner that his or her dog has tried to bite him and the pet owner does nothing to ensure passerby’s safety after having that knowledge, then if someone is bitten, the pet owner will be held liable.
If the pet owner denies responsibility and the dispute ends up in court, the judge or jury will have to decide whether or not the owner should have known the dog was likely to hurt someone. Some factors the courts may take into account include: previous bites, threatening people by growling or snarling, fighting with other dogs, and the particular breed of dog.
If you or a loved one has been hurt, get help. Find a Wyoming dog bite lawyer today.