In Kentucky, several different laws work together to govern dog bite cases. In this article, we'll take a look at a few of the key laws that may come into play, starting with the deadlines for filing a Kentucky dog bite lawsuit in civil court. We'll then look at Kentucky's dog bite statute, its status as a "strict liability" state, and the defenses that may be at a dog owner's disposal if a lawsuit is filed.
After an injury in Kentucky, an injured person typically has one year to file a civil lawsuit in court, under a state law known as the statute of limitations. The date on which this one-year time frame begins can vary from case to case. Most of the time, it will begin on the date of the injury; however, if an injury is hidden when it occurs, it may begin running on the date the injury is discovered, rather than the date it was inflicted. Of course, in dog bite cases, it is rare that an injury is not readily apparent right away (as opposed to more complex injuries like those that stem from medical malpractice).
So, why does this law matter? Because if you are injured via a dog bite and do not file your personal injury lawsuit in Kentucky's civil court system before the one-year deadline expires, the court will refuse to hear your case, and you'll be unable to get a civil remedy for your injuries.
Kentucky is a "strict liability" state for dog bites. This means that a dog's owner is liable if the dog causes injury, even if the dog has never shown aggressive tendencies before and even if the owner used reasonable care to control the dog or otherwise prevent the bite from occurring -- in other words, a showing of the dog owner's negligence is not required.
The specific Kentucky law that imposes strict liability for dog bites appears at section 258.235(4) of the Kentucky statutes. It specifies that a dog owner is liable for any damage his or her dog causes to "a person, livestock, or other property."
Because the statute doesn't limit the types of injuries for which a dog's owner is liable, the law applies to both dog bites and other injuries a dog might cause. For instance, suppose that in jumping on a visitor, a dog knocks the person down, causing injuries. The injured person may bring a claim against the owner under this statute, because the injury was caused by the owner's dog.
Many states specify in their "strict liability" laws that a dog owner has certain defenses when faced with a dog bite lawsuit, such as that the "victim" actually provoked the dog, or that he or she was trespassing. Kentucky's dog bite law, however, does not contain these exceptions. It states only that a dog owner is liable for any injuries his or her dog causes.
Kentucky courts, however, have decided that the state's principle of pure comparative negligence does apply to injuries caused by dogs. Under Kentucky's pure comparative negligence law, the damages a dog's owner must pay are reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage of fault assigned to the injured person.
Here's an example: Suppose that a dog is resting in its owner's backyard when a neighbor boy begins to yell at the dog and throw things in its direction. The dog becomes angry and rushes toward the neighbor boy, biting him. At trial, the jury decides that the boy is 45 percent at fault for provoking the dog and that his total damages equal $10,000. The amount of damages the owner will have to pay is $5,500, which is the remaining amount after 45 percent of the damages total -- representing the injured person's share of the liability -- are subtracted.