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Can You Recover Damages If You Got Bit by a Friend’s Aggressive Dog?

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Jun 22, 2020 in Personal Injury

attacked by dogUnder Oregon law, regardless of whether a dog had a prior history or not, the owner is responsible for maintaining control of his or her pet at all times. If a dog bites someone, with or without a prior history, the dog owner may be liable for the damages.

Dangerous dog attacks are terrifying and can happen anywhere. However, what if you were attacked in the home of a friend, family member or neighbor?

We encourage you to contact Rizk Law for legal help. Recovering damages when it involves someone you know can be difficult, but it is important that you are able to seek compensation for the damages you sustained.

What is an Aggressive Dog?

Many may not recognize the difference between a dog who has a propensity for being aggressive, menacing or dangerous versus one that bites for a valid reason. Here is a straightforward explanation of the difference:

Non-Aggressive Dog Intuitively Reacting to an Unexpected Situation

A non-aggressive dog may nip, bite, growl or bark at someone when they are startled, injured, afraid or feeling protective. For example, if you interrupt a dog while it is eating, it may growl at you. If someone trespasses and appears menacing, the dog may bite them. This is not aggressive behavior, this is a dog’s normal response when feeling startled, threatened or protective.

Aggressive Dog With a History of Menacing Behavior

However, if a dog regularly growls, barks, chases, lunges at or tries to bite other people or dogs without provocation, it can be considered an aggressive, menacing or dangerous dog. Owners who keep or maintain an animal that is known to be aggressive or dangerous can be held liable if it attacks another person or domestic animal. In extreme cases, such as if the victim is killed, the owner could even face criminal charges.

Did Your Friend’s Dog Have a Known History of Being Aggressive?

If you have information about your friend’s dog having a prior history of attacking visitors without being provoked, it may strengthen your claim. However, even if the dog had never attacked anyone before, there is some additional information that could show the dog was more likely to be aggressive or menacing, such as:

  • If the dog was known to be aggressive around other people
  • Whether the owner frequently scolded the dog about biting or growling at others
  • If you personally ever saw the dog exhibit aggressive behavior around others, including the owner

These questions are important, because sometimes, even if the dog has not bitten someone before, it may have been regularly aggressive towards others. However, if there was not any injury, the owner probably never reported it.

What Kind of Damages Can You Pursue?

Oregon recently made some changes to the state’s dog bite laws that effectively does away with the “one free bite” mentality. The updated legislature better clarifies Oregon’s approach to dog bite attacks.

The three levels of Oregon dog bite cases include:

Common Law Negligence

As stated above, Oregon dog owners are deemed responsible for maintaining control of their dogs at all times. What this means if someone is bitten is that if a dog owner could have reasonably foreseen and prevented his or her dog from attacking someone, then he or she could be held liable for the damages.

Strict Liability

Under the law, there is a higher level of accountability if a dog has a prior history of unprovoked attacks or a known propensity for being dangerous or menacing to people or domestic animals. In this type of incident, whether or not the owner attempted to prevent the attack is irrelevant. He or she will be liable for the damages.

Economic Damages

This is the newest addition to Oregon’s dog bite laws. Under this law, injured victims can pursue a lawsuit to recover economic damages, such as any medical costs related to the attack, counseling for the trauma the victim suffered, lost wages if the victim was unable to work while recovering and other related financial damages.

Under Oregon Law, injured victims may also pursue compensation for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These damages can be obtained under either a common law negligence or strict liability case.

How Do I Sue My Friend Without Damaging Our Relationship?

Dog bite claims can be handled with sensitivity, between your lawyer and the homeowners or renters insurance company of your friend. Many dog bite wounds can be serious and require ongoing treatment, such as reconstructive surgery. A friend should want you to be able to receive financial compensation to help you get the medical treatment you need for your injuries. 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, there are an estimated 4.5 million people in the U.S. injured by dogs each year. In 2019 alone, the insurance industry paid out more than $797 million in claims nationwide. 

How to Protect Yourself From Another’s Dangerous Dog

If your neighbor, friend or family member has a dog that is aggressive or makes you feel unsafe, you are within your right to ask them to safely move the dog to another room or to a fenced-in yard while you are visiting.

In other cases, if the dog is clearly dangerous, it may be necessary to report the dog to Multnomah County Animal Services to protect yourself, others in the neighborhood, and your friend. 

Recently, a Portland dog owner was attacked and killed by his own dog. According to the housemate who attempted to save him, the dog had a history of being aggressive. Even as the man was dying, he begged his housemate not to call the police. Sometimes, people love their dogs so much, they are not able to do the right thing.

How an Attorney Can Help You After a Dangerous Dog Attack

If you were injured during a dog attack, whether it was a friend’s, relative’s or someone else’s dog, Rizk Law is prepared to help. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge of Oregon’s dog bite laws.

Call our firm anytime to arrange for a free consultation with one of our Portland dog bite attorneys to discuss the details of your potential case and learn more about your legal options. We charge nothing for our services unless we obtain compensation on your behalf.

Call now for a FREE case evaluation!