When A Dog Bites Your Child: The Legal Ramifications

Posted on: 30 November 2018

Dogs biting children is not an uncommon occurrence, unfortunately, and parents may need to consider legal action in some instances. Dog bites are generally civil cases that are adjudicated under personal injury law. Here are some of the main considerations to keep in mind if your child has been bitten and you are thinking about taking legal action against the owner.

Legal Principles

Owners may be held legally responsible for the actions of their dog under various legal principles. Most states use a concept called "strict liability" in dog-bite cases. Under this principle, the owner is responsible for the dog biting someone regardless of whether they were negligent in any way or knew that the dog was dangerous.

In a few states, certain conditions must be met before the doctrine is applicable. This standard is known as "modified strict liability". For example, in Tennessee, strict liability comes into play when the dog is at large or not under the owner's control.

In states that do not have a strict liability statute, then you typically must prove that the owner was negligent in some way. For example, if the owner knew that the dog was dangerous and did not use a leash, the owner might be considered negligent under the law.

Another important legal concept regarding dogs is the "one bite' rule. Under this principle, you may prove that an owner is liable if they knew the dog had a tendency to bite and did not take action to control their animal.


Dog owners have several defenses to fall back on when facing lawsuits based on the actions of their dog. The two primary defenses are provocation and trespassing. If your child provoked the dog in question by poking it with a stick, for instance, then the owner might not be held liable. Also, if the child trespassed into a neighbor's backyard by hopping a fence, then the court might hold that the child actions were responsible for what happened and that the owner is not at fault.


You may ask for compensation for a dog bite for a variety of expenses and issues related to the bite. Medical expenses and compensation for any pain and suffering caused by the bite are among the most common types of damage awards. Other reasons for compensation include permanent impairment and scarring or disfigurement.

Dog bites can be very serious in some cases, and it's crucial to have expert assistance if you decide to pursue a lawsuit. For more information, consult a personal injury attorney in your city.