Ohio Dog Bite Injury Laws & Owner Liability Rules

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

Here, we'll look at some major points of Ohio dog bite law, starting with the time limit, or "statute of limitations," for filing a dog bite injury lawsuit in an Ohio civil court. Then, we'll turn to Ohio's dog bite statute and examine an injured person's options for bringing a dog bite case in Ohio. Finally, we'll look at some of the defenses a dog owner might raise in court.

Time Limits on Ohio Dog Bite Injury Lawsuits

 Ohio, like other states, has a law on the books called a  statute of limitations, which sets a time limit on bringing civil cases to court after an injury has been suffered. If you've been bitten by a dog in Ohio, you have  two years  to file a lawsuit in court seeking compensation for all losses stemming from the incident. This two-year deadline usually starts running on the date the bite occurred.

Ohio courts typically refuse to hear any personal injury case that is filed after the two-year statute of limitations has expired, including dog bite cases. That's why it is important to get your lawsuit filed in court before the two-year deadline passes.

Ohio's Dog Bite Statute  

Ohio Revised Code Section  955.28(B)  states that a dog owner, keeper, or harborer is liable for any injury caused by a dog if:

  • the dog's behavior caused the injury,
  • the injured person was not committing or attempting to commit a crime,
  • the injured person was not trespassing, and
  • the injured person did not provoke the dog by teasing, tormenting, or abusing it.

The statute applies both to injuries caused by dog bites and injuries caused by other dog behaviors. For instance, if you are knocked down by a large dog and suffer injury, you may file a lawsuit against the dog's owner under the Ohio dog bite statute.

Does Ohio Use Strict Liability or Negligence in Dog Bite Cases?

Ohio law allows a person injured by a dog to bring a case on either a "strict liability" or on a "negligence" basis. A "strict liability" case is based on Ohio's dog bite statute, and it does not require the injured person to prove that the dog's owner acted negligently. A "negligence" case is based on Ohio case law. It requires that the injured person prove that the dog's owner failed to act with reasonable care in controlling the dog or preventing the bite from occurring, and that this failure resulted in the plaintiff's injury.

In Ohio, an injured person may receive punitive damages if he or she can prove the dog's owner acted with gross negligence or malice. Punitive damages are not available under the dog bite statute -- they can only be pursued in a case based on negligence, and they're pretty tough to come by since they require proof that the dog owner's conduct was particularly egregious.

Dog Bite Defenses in Ohio

The defenses available to a dog owner in Ohio differ, depending on whether the case is based on strict liability or negligence.

In a strict liability case, the Ohio dog bite statute provides three possible defenses for a dog owner. First, the owner may argue that the person bitten  provoked the dog  by teasing, tormenting, or abusing it. If the injured person did provoke the dog, he or she may not recover damages.

Next, the owner may argue that the injured person was trespassing at the time and that the dog bite statute absolves the owner of  liability for injuries.

Finally, the owner might argue that the injured person was committing a crime -- or trying to commit one -- when he or she was bitten.

In a negligence case, the owner might argue that he or she had never known the dog to bite anyone before, or had never observed any aggressive tendencies. An Ohio court may find the owner is not liable if the owner lacked knowledge about the dog's aggression.

One final note: Under Ohio's dog bite statute, a dog owner is liable if a dog injures a solicitor, such as a door-to-door salesperson, whether or not that person had a permit to conduct door-to-door sales. So, a dog owner won't be absolved of liability simply because a solicitor is operating without a permit.

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