Nevada is one of a handful of U.S. states that does not have a specific dog bite statute. Instead, Nevada dog bite cases are governed by case law and local ordinances.
In this article, we'll take a look at a few Nevada laws that impact dog bite cases, starting with the deadlines for filing an injury lawsuit in court. Then, we'll discuss Nevada's status as a negligence or "one bite" state when it comes to dog bites. Finally, we'll cover some defenses a dog owner might raise when faced with a dog bite injury case.
Nevada, like every other state, has a law called a statute of limitations when it comes to personal injury lawsuits, which include cases filed over dog bite injuries. This law sets deadlines on filing any kind of personal injury lawsuit in court. In Nevada, an injured person has two years to file a lawsuit, and the clock typically begins to run on the date of the injury.
It's crucial to file a dog bite lawsuit in court before the two-year deadline expires. If the lawsuit is filed even one day late, the court will likely throw it out without hearing it, depriving the injured person of the chance to seek compensation in court.
Nevada does not have a specific statute governing dog bite cases. Instead, Nevada dog bite cases are based on case law precedent, which means other dog bite cases that have been decided by Nevada courts.
In Nevada, dog bite cases are governed by negligence law according to Harry v. Smith, 893 P.2d 372, 375 (Nev. 1995). In order to hold a dog's owner liable for a bite or other injury, an injured person must demonstrate that the dog owner failed to use reasonable care to prevent the injury, that the injury was caused by that lack of care, and that the injured person's damages -- like medical bills, lost wages, and other losses -- resulted from the injury.
In some parts of Nevada, county or local ordinances require dog owners to restrain their animals, such as by keeping dogs in a fenced-in yard or by walking them only on a leash. If a dog bite results from an owner's failure to follow these kinds of ordinances, the injured person may be able to argue that the failure to comply with the ordinance should be considered negligence. Basing negligence on an ordinance in this fashion is known as "negligence per se," which means that the act (violating the statute) is negligent on its face.
For instance, Nevada's Washoe County code states, in Section 55.100, that people with the "care, custody or control" of a dog or other animal are responsible for keeping the animal on the owner's premises and not allowing it to leave. If a dog owner fails to keep the animal restrained and the dog injures someone, the injured person may be able to base his or her dog bite or dog injury case on the fact that the owner failed to meet the requirements of Section 55.100.
Because Nevada follows standard negligence principles for dog bite cases, a dog's owner has several possible defenses when faced with a lawsuit. One of the most commonly-used defenses in negligence cases is comparative fault. A "comparative fault" argument states that the injured person is partly or totally responsible for the injury suffered.
Here's an example of how comparative fault might work in a dog bite case. Suppose that a boy is provoking his neighbor's dog by poking at it with a stick. After being poked several times, the dog growls at the boy, then bites him. In court, the dog's owner argues that the boy is responsible for his own injuries, because the dog would not have bitten him if it had not been provoked.
Nevada uses a "modified comparative fault" rule, which requires the injured person and the dog owner to share liability if the injured person is less than 50 percent at fault, but eliminates damages entirely if the injured person is 50 percent or more at fault.