Ohio Dog Bite Laws

An Ohio dog owner's liability for bites and other injuries, the time limit for filing a dog bite lawsuit in Ohio's courts, and more.

If you've been injured by someone else's dog in Ohio, or you're a dog owner in the state, laws related to dog bite injury liability may be of particular interest to you. In the sections that follow, we'll discuss:

  • the statutory deadline for filing a dog bite lawsuit in Ohio's civil court system
  • Ohio's dog bite statute and its status as a "strict liability" state for dog bite injuries, and
  • the kinds of defenses an Ohio dog owner might raise in response to a personal injury lawsuit over a dog bite or other animal-caused injury.

The Ohio Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Injury Lawsuits

A statute of limitations is a law that places a deadline on your right to file a lawsuit in your state's civil court system. Different kinds of cases are subject to different deadlines, but the consequences for missing the filing deadline is the same: the court will almost certainly dismiss your case, unless the circumstances call for a rare extension of the filing deadline.

There's no specific Ohio statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits. Instead, these claims typically fall under the larger umbrella of "personal injury," and Ohio's statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits (Ohio Revised Code section 2305.10) says that any lawsuit seeking a legal remedy for "injury to the person" must be filed within two years (that means filing a personal injury complaint in court). The "clock" usually starts running on the date the bite or other injury occurred.

Ohio's "Strict Liability" Dog Bite Statute

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

  • the dog's behavior caused the injury
  • the injured person was not "committing or attempting to commit criminal trespass or another criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor," and
  • the injured person was not "teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog."

The statute applies to dog bites and other injuries caused by these animals. For instance, if you're knocked down by a large dog and suffer an arm injury, you can file a lawsuit against the dog's owner under section 955.28(B).

Note that Ohio's dog bite statute is a "strict liability" law, meaning that it does not require the injured person to prove that the dog's owner acted negligently, i.e. failed to act with reasonable care in controlling the dog or preventing the bite from occurring. If the elements listed above are met, the owner is liable for the claimant's medical bills, lost income, and other damages resulting from the incident, regardless of whether he or she did anything wrong.

Learn more about strict liability versus negligence in dog bite cases.

Potential Defenses to a Dog Bite Injury Claim In Ohio

Some of the most common defenses available to an Ohio dog owner in response to an injury lawsuit can be gleaned from the Ohio dog bite statute discussed above.

First, the owner can 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 cannot recover damages from the owner.

Next, the owner might 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 (other than a "minor misdemeanor" as the statute differentiates)—or trying to commit one—when he or she was bitten.

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.

Whether as an animal owner or as someone who has suffered a bite or other injury, if you find yourself on either side of a case like this, it may be time to discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer.

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