Although many animals are friendly and well behaved, injuries from dogs and other animals are very common. Even familiar and well-trained animals can bite or attack, putting people – including children – in harm’s way.
A Dog Owner’s Responsibility for Safety or Injury
Ohio has a specific dog bite statute that generally imposes liability on owners, keepers, or harborers of a dog for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog. If you are bitten, attacked, or injured by a dog while you’re in a public place or lawfully on someone’s property, the owner is legally liable for these injuries. This is called “strict liability.” It holds the owner responsible for damages caused by the dog, even if the owner used reasonable care to restrain the animal or to protect or warn others, and even if the animal has never previously been violent or caused injury.
In Ohio, a dog that bites, attacks, or causes injury to a person without provocation must be registered with the county auditor as a “dangerous dog” after which the dog is subject to serious restrictions – the dog must always be on a leash shorter than 6 feet (except while hunting) and must be kept in a locked cage or locked yard.
More and more people are keeping unusual animals in their homes and on their property. In 2012, Ohio enacted a law banning private individuals from acquiring, selling, keeping, or breeding restricted species including lions, tigers, bears, elephants, certain monkeys, rhinos, alligators, crocodiles, anacondas and pythons longer than 12 feet, certain vipers, and all venomous snakes.
Owners of other animals not specifically mentioned in Ohio state laws owe a general duty of care to persons who are permitted to be on their land or premises, a duty that extends to their animals. This duty of care requires property owners to exercise reasonable care for others’ safety on their premises and to provide adequate warnings to those entering the property where a hazard exists (like an exotic or potentially dangerous animal). Owners who do not meet these obligations may be liable for any injuries their animals cause.
Recovering Damages in an Animal Attack Case
An animal bite or attack can cause cuts, bruising, broken bones, severe lacerations, damage to vital organs, and permanent disfigurement, especially in children. These injuries often require extensive, costly, and painful medical treatment, including multiple courses of plastic surgery and physical therapy. Attacks can expose victims to diseases like rabies, for which they must undergo an expensive and painful series of shots to protect against contracting the disease if the animal’s vaccine history is unknown. Animal bites and scratches can also become infected and pose serious health risks. In the worst cases, animal attacks can lead to death.
Victims of animal attacks can suffer emotional distress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with both short- and long-term psychological pain. Bites and attacks may also result in permanent disabilities, physical limitations, or scars. These types of damages are all compensable under Ohio personal injury law.
Contact an Attorney for an Animal Attack Claim
An experienced personal injury attorney will explore all the factors that determine compensation for your particular injuries. In some cases, even if the attack occurred somewhere other than at the owner’s home or property, you may still be able to pursue compensation from their homeowner’s insurance.
If you know the animal or it was an unintentional injury, you might be afraid that reporting the occurrence or pursuing a claim for your damages will result in the animal being euthanized or “put down,” especially if you know the animal. That’s not necessarily the case in Ohio. When an incident involving an animal-caused injury is reported, your local dog warden or animal control officer will examine the circumstances and determine the appropriate action. If the animal has a history of violence or abuse, or the attack is particularly vicious, animal control may order it to be put down, but the decision isn’t made automatically.
If you’ve been injured by a dog bite or animal attack, you should contact an attorney immediately. Ohio law requires you to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations – usually within two years of the occurrence – even if your medical treatment is ongoing. An experienced animal attack lawyer will help you pursue claims against the responsible parties and recover fair compensation for your injuries. Contact the attorneys at Obral Silk & Associates, LLC today.
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