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The One-Bite Rule: What Does it Really Mean?

Contrary to those which enforce strict liability, many states in the U.S. apply what is commonly known as the “one-bite rule”. Strict dog bite liability typically makes it difficult for a defendant to win a case, due to the limited nature of what plaintiffs must prove in court. By contrast, one-bite laws place a greater burden of proof upon plaintiffs, requiring evidence that the owner was already aware of an animal’s propensity to bite.

What’s in a Name

Although states vary in specific wording of laws, the phrase one-bite rule can be misleading, as these statutes do not necessarily absolve responsibility for an owner whose dog bites another person for the first time. Rather, the intent is to protect owners whose dogs have not previously shown any tendency toward vicious behavior.

How the Rule Works

Depending on the state, certain breeds of dogs (such as pit bulls) are not protected by this rule under any circumstance. Additionally, if a plaintiff can prove that a defendant had prior knowledge of a dog’s dangerous propensity, they still may win a decision in court regardless of whether the animal had ever actually bitten another person before.

It’s also important to note that these laws do not always apply strictly to dog bite liability. Other injuries, such as those incurred if a person is knocked down by a larger dog, can also be basis for a lawsuit. Investing in canine liability insurance can be a great way to protect yourself from costly legal expenses if you believe your dog may pose a risk to the public.

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