Idaho is one of the few U.S. states that does not have a specific dog bite statute on the books. Instead, Idaho dog bite cases are governed by court decisions handed down in the state, as well as the same laws that apply to other personal injury cases in Idaho.
In this article, we'll examine a few of the key laws and rules that govern Idaho dog bite claims. We'll start with the statute of limitations that creates a deadline for filing a dog bite lawsuit in court. Then, we'll look at the case law that covers Idaho dog bite claims and how a dog bite case might be structured. Finally, we'll examine some of the defenses available to dog owners in Idaho.
Idaho's statute of limitations restricts the amount of time available to file a dog bite injury lawsuit in a civil court after the injury occurs. Injured people cannot wait indefinitely to file an injury lawsuit; instead, a case must be filed within two years of the date of the injury (in most cases). If the lawsuit isn't filed within two years, it will be barred (the court won't hear it). So, it's important to keep an eye on the statute of limitations, and understand how it affects your case.
Idaho is a "one bite" state when it comes to dog bite claims. In "one bite" states, a dog owner cannot be held liable for a dog bite unless the owner knew or should have known the dog was dangerous, aggressive, or likely to attack. The "one bite rule" moniker comes from the fact that the most common evidence of this knowledge is the fact that the dog has bitten once before. However, a previous bite is not necessary to establish knowledge; an owner can know a dog is aggressive even if the dog has never actually bitten anyone in the past.
Idaho also allows animal injury cases to be based on the common rules of negligence. In a negligence case, a dog's owner is liable for the injuries the dog causes if the owner failed to use reasonable care in handling or controlling the dog, and this failure caused the injuries.
One way to demonstrate negligence is to show that a dog owner failed to follow an applicable dog-related law and injury resulted. For instance, if a dog knocks a person down and injures him because the owner failed to keep the dog on a leash in violation of a local leash law, that violation could be used as the basis for a negligence claim.
An owner facing a dog bite case in Idaho has several possible defenses. Because Idaho is a one-bite state, one of the most common defenses is that the owner didn't know and couldn't have known the dog had acted aggressively in the past.
A dog owner facing a negligence-based case might raise any defense available against negligence. Two defenses commonly seen in dog bite negligence claims are comparative negligence, often based on provoking the dog, and trespassing.
Comparative negligence comes into play when the fault for the injury is shared between the injured person and the dog owner. One way this can occur is if the injured person was provoking the dog just before the bite or other injury occurred. In Idaho, a dog owner's damages are reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the injured person, as long as the injured person's share of fault is under 50 percent. Damages are eliminated if the percentage of fault assigned to the injured person is 50 percent or higher.
Trespassing by the injured person may also reduce or eliminate a dog owner's liability. A homeowner's liability for trespasser injuries is limited in many situations.