Who is Liable for Dog Bites?

Dog bite incidents can leave victims suffering from severe injuries. Truthfully, the last thing any person expects is that they will be bitten and injured by a dog, but these incidents do occur with regularity throughout the state of Tennessee.

Victims in these cases should be able to recover compensation for their losses, including coverage of their medical bills, lost wages, scarring and disfigurement damages, and more.

However, it is important to know who is responsible for compensating dog bite injury victims. Here we want to discuss bite injury liability in the state of Tennessee.

Tennessee and Strict Liability for Dog Bites

When we turn to Tenn. Code. Ann. section 44-8-413, we can see that dog owners have a duty to:

  • Keep their animal under control at all times
  • Keep their animal from running at large

When a person fails to fulfill their legal duty, they can certainly be held liable for any injuries caused by their dog. If a dog bites another person who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, the dog’s owner will typically have to pay for any damages to the victim.

It is not necessary for a victim to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent in any way in order to recover this compensation. This is considered a “strict liability” dog bite law.

What About the One-Bite Exception?

Tennessee does have an exception to the strict liability law your dog bites. Often, this is called the “residential exception” or the “one-bite” rule. 

In many states across the country, dog owners cannot be held liable for a dog bite unless their dog has previously bitten somebody or shown a propensity for aggression.

Tennessee only applies a form of this rule to dog bites that occur at the dog owner’s personal residence or property they own. In these situations, the owner will only be held responsible if the dog has a history of aggression or if the owner’s negligence contributed to the dog bite.

Types of Compensation Available to Dog Bite Injury Victims

Dog bite victims in Tennessee may be entitled to various types of compensation for their losses. Typically, victims are able to recover both economic and non-economic damages as a result of what happened. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coverage of all medical bills related to the bite incident
  • Compensation for any surgery needed to repair damage
  • Coverage of prescription medications
  • Lost wages if a victim cannot work while they recover
  • General household out-of-pocket expenses that arise due to the bite
  • Loss of quality of life damages
  • Scarring and disfigurement damages
  • Emotional distress damages

The total amount of compensation available to dog bite injury victims in Tennessee will vary depending on several factors. This can include the severity of the injuries, the length of a victim’s recovery time, and the level of the victim’s pain and suffering or scarring and disfigurement.

Working With an Attorney

Even though most dog bite injury victims will be able to recover compensation under the state’s strict liability laws, it may be necessary to work with a skilled dog bite attorney for these claims.

The reality is that there will need to be an extensive investigation conducted in order to uncover the facts of what happened. An attorney can help ensure that their client is evaluated by trusted medical professionals who can help treat the injuries and properly calculate total expected losses.