Dogs: More than just a bark

Not all dog owners can say their dogs have never been aggressive or violent. In fact, the Center for Disease Control has stated dogs bite more than 4.5 million Americans annually, resulting in approximately 800,000 injuries requiring medical attention. Apart from the statistics, most people probably know at least a few folks who’ve been bitten by a dog, and many of the dogs responsible for the bite probably “never did anything like that before.”

Unfortunately, the laws and regulations governing dog-bite liability are far from uniform and emanate from the city, county and state levels. Dog ownership factors prominently in the realm of homeowners insurance, and insurers approach the issue differently. The fact is, when it comes to insurance, a dog represents a risk that often is ascertainable and insurers treat it accordingly. Therefore, by taking a look at the landscape of dog-bite law, including the specific approaches taken by several states, perhaps this resource kit will shed light on why some insurers behave like they’ve seen a “Beware of Dog” sign.

The basics
States typically approach the dog-bite issue with some combination of specific dog-bite statutes, the one-bite rule and negligence laws. In general, dog-bite statutes make the owner automatically liable for any injury caused by his dog if it was unprovoked. One-bite rules have been around for years and ordinarily provide the owner is responsible for injury caused by the dog if the owner knew the dog had dangerous propensities. Naturally, the most common way an owner can obtain this kind of knowledge is if she learns the dog previously bit someone.

Finally, every state has negligence laws dictating an owner will be liable for injuries and losses resulting from his negligence in connection with the dog. An owner also can be deemed negligent if he or she breaks a strict-liability law such as a leash law. Simply put, if you live in an area with a leash law and you fail to put your dog on a leash, you’re liable automatically.

Connecticut General Statute Section 22-357 is the state’s dog-bite statute. It provides that the owner or keeper of a dog that does any damage to person or property shall be liable for the damage as long as the person injured was not, at the time of the injury, committing trespass or another tort or teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog. It is important to note this statute is not limited to dog bites; rather, it applies to all personal or property damage done by a dog. Further, the statute contains a presumption that a child under seven years old who is injured by a dog was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog at the time of the injury. As you can see, dogs in Connecticut do not get “one free bite.”

Connecticut also has made it illegal for an owner to permit a dog to roam unattended. Violations of these laws can result in fines and, under certain circumstances, imprisonment.

So what are your thoughts on this article?  Leave us a comment below.

Protecting YOU is our Job

Penny Hanley & Howley Insurance

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