Connecticut Dog Bite Injury Laws & Owner Liability Rules

When is the owner liable for dog bite injuries in a personal injury claim or lawsuit in Connecticut?

Connecticut's dog bite laws allow people who have been injured by dog bites to collect damages in many, but not all, situations. Here, we'll look at how Connecticut's "dog bite law" and other rules affect dog bite cases in the state, starting with the time limits for filing a dog bite lawsuit in a Connecticut court. We'll also discuss the defenses a dog's owner might raise in such a case.

Time Limits on Filing a Lawsuit

The statute of limitations in Connecticut sets a deadline on filing any injury-related lawsuit in the state's civil courts, including a case arising from dog bite injuries. In Connecticut, a person injured by a dog has two years to file a case in court. Cases that are filed after the deadline has passed are nearly always thrown out by the court without a hearing. To ensure your case is heard, then, it's vital to file your lawsuit before the deadline.

The two-year deadline starts to run on the date of the injury in many, but not all, injury cases. Other factors can also affect how the statute of limitations runs, in turn affecting when the deadline falls. It's important to seek advice on exactly how the deadline applies to your case so that, if you choose to file a lawsuit, you're able to do so before time runs out.

Connecticut's Dog Bite Statute

Connecticut's dog bite statute appears at Connecticut General Statutes section 22-357. It states that a dog's owner is liable for injuries a dog causes if:

  • the injury is to the person or property of another,
  • the injured person was not trespassing, and
  • the injured person was not "teasing, tormenting, or abusing" the dog.

The statute applies both to injuries caused by dog bites and to other kinds of injuries a dog may cause. For example, a person who has been knocked over and injured by a pouncing dog may file a lawsuit under Connecticut's dog bite law, even if the dog did not actually bite the person.

"Strict Liability" Dog Bite Law in Connecticut

Connecticut's dog bite statute is a "strict liability" law, meaning that the dog's owner is liable for injuries the dog causes, even if the owner had no way to know that the dog might end up injuring someone.

Owners in Connecticut are responsible for any injuries their dogs cause, no matter how friendly they believe their dogs to be. "Strict liability" in dog bite law is the rule in most U.S. states.

States that don't use this rule typically apply a "one bite" rule instead. Under the "one bite" rule, an owner can't be held liable unless he or she knows or should know the dog is aggressive. A handful of states also use a negligence approach that requires the injured person to show that the owner's failure to use reasonable care was a direct cause of the injuries.

Defenses to a Dog Bite Claim in Connecticut

Connecticut's dog bite statute provides two possible specific defenses to a dog bite claim: provocation and trespassing (other common personal injury defenses may also apply).

The "provocation" defense is based on the Connecticut statute's statement that an owner is not liable for dog-related injuries if the injured person was "teasing, tormenting, or abusing" the dog. Provocation can take many forms, so a dog owner who raises a provocation defense will base it on the particular details of the case.

The "trespassing" defense is based on the theory that homeowner liability for trespasser injuries is limited. Generally speaking, a "trespasser" is someone who is on another person's private property without permission and without a legal duty that requires him or her to be present on the property.

One final note on these defenses: Connecticut's dog bite statute creates the presumption that a child under age seven who is injured by a dog wasn't trespassing or provoking the dog at the time. However, a dog's owner can present evidence in court to rebut this presumption.

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