Hundreds of thousands of people get bitten by dogs each year resulting in physical and mental trauma that can last months to years. Depending on the severity of the case and how the attack and bite occurred, you may have a legal case and should consult a personal injury attorney to help navigate your options.
In the State of Vermont, it is the responsibility of pet owners to take precautionary steps to ensure that their animal is under control, when this fails to happen, an attorney can be extremely helpful at discovering who is at fault in the incident and what insurance will cover the incident. If the dog owner has renter or homeowner liability insurance, the insurance company might cover the cost of their negligence.
Vermont’s “One-bite” Rule
In the State of Vermont, under common law, a pet owner is not to be held accountable for a dog’s attack if they didn’t have any prior knowledge that the animal would act in a dangerous manner. If the dog that attacked has a known history of aggressive behavior or has attacked other animals or people in the past, then the owner of said animal will most likely be held responsible.
Once a dog has bitten someone they are placed on a watch list and if they are to bite again more serious action will be taken. In Vermont all dog bite cases have a statute of limitations of three years, if a case is filed after this time has passed, it will not be heard in court.
It is also important to note that if the defendant who was bit went on a property with clearly labeled “Beware of Dog” signs or provoked the animal in any way, the owner may not be held accountable for the attack. Provocation of a dog is classified as poking, hitting, taunting, or yelling.
Comparative fault in dog bite cases
Comparative fault is when the blame for an incident is split between the defendant and the plaintiff based on each of their negligible behavior contributions. Vermont uses a modified version of this rule when dealing with dog bite cases.
For example, if the defendant trespassed on someone’s land that had clear “Beware of Dog” signs and then proceeded to get bit by a dog, the court might rule that the defendant was 40% and the owner was 60% responsible for the incident. If the defendant was suing for $1,000, this means that they would only receive $600 in damages. If both parties are found 50% responsible then the defendant will not receive any compensation.
What can you do as a dog owner?
If you are a dog owner it is your responsibility to take precautionary measures to keep your dog contained and keep others safe from serious injury. Here is a list of simple things you can do:
- When out and about, keep your dog on a leash;
- Train your dog to be able to socialize with other dogs and people;
- Don’t encourage aggressive behavior (wrestling, tug of war, etc.); and
- Keep immunizations up to date.
If you have been bitten by a dog and are looking for help navigating your options contact Larson and Gallivan Law, PLC for a consultation.
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