Nebraska Dog Bite Injury Laws & Owner Liability Rules

When can a dog bite victim sue the dog owner in Nebraska? Learn about the personal injury liability rules and defenses here.

Nebraska has several laws that could apply to a dog bite injury case. In this article, we'll look at a few of these laws, including the state law that imposes liability on dog owners when their pets cause injury to others. We'll also talk about the time limits for filing a Nebraska dog bite injury lawsuit in court, and the defenses available to a dog owner who faces a dog bite lawsuit.

Time Limits for Filing Nebraska Dog Bite Lawsuits

People injured by dog bites in Nebraska have a limited amount of time to bring a lawsuit to court, seeking a civil remedy (compensation) for the injury. This time period is dictated by Nebraska's statute of limitations, which gives an injured person four years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit in Nebraska's civil court system. If you try to file the lawsuit after four years have passed, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it.

Nebraska Dog Bite Law

Nebraska's dog bite statute appears in section 54-601 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes. It allows an injured person to pursue damages against a dog owner if:

  • the dog injured the person or the person's livestock or pets, and
  • the injured person was not trespassing when the injury occurred.

The statute specifies that both dog bites and injuries caused by other types of dog behavior are covered. For instance, an injured person who suffered harm when a dog ran into her and knocked her down may seek compensation under Nebraska's dog bite law, even if the dog did not bite the person during the incident.

Nebraska courts have limited the application of the state's dog bite law in one unusual way. In Underhill v. Hobelman, 279 Neb. 30, 33 (2009), the Nebraska Supreme Court held that the state's dog bite statute does not apply to dogs that are behaving in a playful manner. To recover damages against the owner of a playful dog, the injured person must show that the owner knew or should have known the dog might act aggressively while playing, and failed to take reasonable steps to warn or protect the injured person from harm.

Defenses to a Nebraska Dog Bite Lawsuit

A dog owner facing a dog bite lawsuit in Nebraska can argue the defense that the dog bite victim was trespassing at the time the bite occurred (this defense is based on the statute discussed above). The dog's owner may also argue that the dog was acting playfully and that therefore the negligence or "one bite" rule should apply.

The statute specifies that an injured person may not hold a dog's owner liable if the injured person was trespassing when the dog attacked. Trespassing occurs when a person is on another's private property without permission or without a legal duty requiring the person to be on the property, like delivering the mail. Homeowner liability for trespasser injuries is limited in many areas of the law, including Nebraska dog bites.

Because Nebraska's courts have specified that playfulness does not create liability for dog bite injuries, a dog's owner might also argue that a dog was just playing when the injury occurred. This defense does not eliminate liability, but it can make it more difficult for the injured person to win damages, because it requires the injured person to take one more step and show that the owner's negligence resulted in the injury.

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