The most common animal attacks in Ohio—likely in all states—are dog bites. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 4 and 5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, and half of them are children, with young children being the most vulnerable. Moreover, tens of thousands of those injuries are serious enough to need reconstructive surgery.
Unfortunately, taking precautions cannot always prevent an altercation with a dog. Understanding Ohio’s law as it pertains to dangerous animals and their victims is key in helping you or a family member heal in the event of an animal attack.
Ohio’s Dog Bite Law
In Ohio, a dog is designated dangerous if it has injured someone, killed another dog or is caught running loose three or more times. There also are many cities in the state that enforce limitations or bans on breeds of dogs that are considered dangerous, such as pit bulls and rottweilers.
While these facts can have an impact on how your specific case is viewed in a court of law, victims of animal attacks should be aware that Ohio’s dog bite law is strict liability, which means if a dog bites someone, the owner is responsible even if the dog has not been designated dangerous according to the above criteria.
Exceptions to this law are specific. The dog owner will not be held responsible if the victim of the attack was:
- Trespassing on the dog owner’s property
- Committing a crime against another person at the time of the attack
- Teasing or abusing the dog on the owner’s property
Statute of Limitations
Because Ohio has established a statute that holds dog owners liable for injuries caused by their dogs, victims have six years from the time of the attack to file a lawsuit. For children, the statute of limitations begins at their 18th birthday regardless of their age at the time of the attack.
This additional time is a significant benefit for both adults and children because of the scarring and psychological trauma that often accompany an animal attack.
Filing a Lawsuit
While you may hope for a peaceful settlement following an animal attack, it is important to be prepared in case your claim is challenged. If you determine you must file a lawsuit, the information you gather and preserve immediately following the attack will be crucial to your case.
If you are attacked, you should:
- Identify the animal to confirm vaccinations and medical history
- Record the name and contact information of the dog owner
- Gather contact information of witnesses to the attack
- File a report with police and/or your local animal control agency and health department
- Get photographs of your injuries
- Maintain a file of all medical bills and treatment you receive and a journal of your experience beginning at the time of the attack through all treatment
- If possible, identify people who may be aware of the dog’s history or whether it has been aggressive in the past
Ohio’s statute dictates that the owner of a dog that attacks is responsible for the victim’s medical bills as they pertain to the injury. Should you need to sue, your settlement may include immediate and future medical treatment, as well as surgery required later to address scarring. You may also be entitled to compensation for psychological counseling and lost wages. In some cases, a judge may award punitive damages if it can be proven that the owner was reckless in his handling of his dog, such as failing to confine a dog that has been designated dangerous.
Your attorney also can advise you if there are other parties who may be responsible for the animal that attacked you. A dog sitter or the owner of a kennel or pound may be held liable if he or she was responsible for the dog at the time of the attack. Landlords and property owners may also be held liable if they knew or should have known that a tenant had a dangerous animal on the property.
If you or a family member have been attacked and injured by a dog or other animal, don’t agree to or sign anything before talking to an attorney who understands Ohio’s statute as it pertains to dogs and other animals. The responsibility for the safety of the general public lies with the owner of the animal. Attorney Elizabeth Bernard will help you understand your rights so that you can focus on healing.