Dog Bite Injuries
In Kansas, an owner of an animal is generally liable for injuries caused by the animal only upon proof that the animal owner has knowledge of the dangerous propensities of the animal. This is commonly known as the “first bite is free” rule. If the dog has bitten in the past or shown vicious propensities to the animal owner, the owner is legally liable from that point forward. Simply put, a dog owner who is aware that his or her dog may bite someone is in a different position than a guest who has no idea whether the dog should be treated as friendly or hostile. It is up to the owner to take action to prevent his or her dog from biting a guest under these circumstances by warning the guests and removing the dog.
In recent years, certain breeds are well known as having vicious propensities, such as pit bulls, and there may not need to be proof of a first bite to establish legal responsibility for the animal owner. The dog bite victim must prove that the dog owner should have known that his or her dog had a dangerous propensity to bite people based on the type of dog involved.
Another method of establishing liability to the animal owner is if the animal is straying in public in violation of a local leash law. The animal owner is required to comply with the leash law and if the animal is running loose and causes injury to a person, once again the animal owner is responsible for the injury.
Finally, Kansas law has established a right of an injured person to make a claim based on “dog fright”. A dog owner can be held liable for injuries suffered by someone when that person sustains physical injuries as a result of being frightened by a dog. For example, when a bicyclist suffers injuries in a bicycle accident as a result of losing control when frightened by a chasing dog, a claim can be made against the owner. Once again, the prior knowledge of the dog owner is important as evidence must be established that the dog had previously chased people who passed along the street or house. The owner’s subsequent failure to take action to prevent a repeat occurrence under those circumstances is negligent.
As you can see above, the type of dog involved and the prior knowledge of the owner are the most important facts and those are facts that can be difficult to determine. Accordingly, it is extremely important to contact us immediately to help with the investigation. If bitten by a dog, you should also contact Animal Control to report the incident and complete a report. Be careful not to talk to the insurance company or give a recorded statement.
After liability is established, the injury victim is allowed to recover all damages including past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability, disfigurement, loss of time, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium or loss of spousal support.
Unfortunately, not all dog bites are covered by liability insurance. For insurance to apply, the owner must have either homeowners insurance or renters insurance. Be careful to not talk to the insurance company or give a recorded statement. The insurance company is typically trying to establish a defense that the dog bite victim did something to provoke the bite.
Our office has years of experience handling these types of cases and we can help you with your case!