This article looks at some key points of Oklahoma law as it relates to dog bites and other injuries inflicted by dogs. We'll start with the time limits an injured person needs to know about when filing a dog bite case in an Oklahoma court. Then, we'll look at Oklahoma's "strict liability" dog bite law and how it affects dog bite cases. Finally, we'll discuss two defenses that a dog's owner might raise when faced with a dog bite lawsuit.
The deadline for filing any kind of lawsuit in court is known as the "statute of limitations." In Oklahoma, the statute of limitations for dog bites and other injury cases gives an injured person two years to file the lawsuit in the state's civil court system. Typically, this two-year time limit is counted from the date of the injury.
A case that is not filed before the two-year deadline expires will not be heard by the court. Therefore, it's crucial to understand exactly how the statute of limitations applies in your particular dog bite case and to file your case before the deadline arrives.
Oklahoma has a specific law that addresses dog bites and other injuries caused by dogs. Oklahoma Statutes section 4-42.1 states that a dog's owner is liable for damages when:
Oklahoma's statute specifically covers both injuries caused by dog bites and injuries caused by other dog behaviors. For instance, a person who is knocked down by a pouncing dog and suffers injury may seek damages under Oklahoma's statute, even if the dog doesn't bite the person.
Oklahoma's dog bite law is a "strict liability" law. This means the dog's owner is liable for any injuries the dog causes, even if the owner didn't know and couldn't know that the dog might bite or behave in a way that causes injury. Strict liability laws for dog bites are used in many states.
States that don't rely on strict liability typically use a "one bite" rule instead, requiring that the owner knew or had reason to know the dog would bite before he or she can be held liable. Most states also allow negligence cases to be brought after a dog causes injury. In a negligence case, the injured person must show that the owner failed to use reasonable care in controlling the dog, and that this failure caused the injuries.
A dog's owner might raise a few possible defenses to a dog bite claim, including provocation and trespassing.
Oklahoma's dog bite statute specifies that the dog's owner is not liable for injuries the dog causes if the injured person provoked the dog. A dog might be "provoked" in many ways. For instance, poking a dog repeatedly, throwing things at it, or harassing or abusing the dog might all be considered provocation.
Oklahoma's dog bite statute also specifies that a dog's owner cannot be held liable if the injured person was not in a place he or she had a lawful right to be when the injury occurred. As a rule, a person is "lawfully" in a place when he or she is in a public place, like a park or sidewalk; when the person is on his or her own property; when the person is on someone else's private property to carry out a duty imposed by law; or when the person is on someone else's private property with permission from the property owner.
A person on private property without permission is generally said to be trespassing. Oklahoma law limits a property owner's liability for trespasser injuries, including injuries caused by the owner's dog. A person who is injured by a dog while trespassing may not be able to claim damages from the dog's owner.