In this article, we'll look at a few Oregon laws that might affect a dog bite injury case. We'll start with the time limits on filing an injury-related lawsuit in court, and then we'll look at Oregon's dog bite statute as it relates to what an injured person must prove. Finally, we'll discuss the defenses a dog owner in Oregon might raise against a dog bite injury claim.
Oregon, like every state, has a personal injury statute of limitations that sets a limit on the amount of time an injured person has to file a lawsuit after an injury. When a dog bite occurs, an injured person has two years to file a lawsuit in the local branch of Oregon's civil court system. If the case is not filed within two years, the injured person will almost certainly lose the chance to bring the case to court at all.
Oregon's dog bite laws only impose liability on an owner if the dog is a "potentially dangerous dog." A "potentially dangerous dog" under Oregon law is a dog that does any of the following:
In all of these situations, the dog must not be provoked. If the dog is provoked, it may escape the label of a "potentially dangerous dog." If a "potentially dangerous dog" injures a person or damages property, the dog's owner is liable to the injured person or the property owner for all the damages that result.
Many U.S. states use a "strict liability" rule for dog bites, holding owners liable even if there is no prior evidence or reason to believe the dog is potentially dangerous. Oregon, however, uses a negligence or "one bite" rule.
In Oregon, an owner who does not know or has no reason to know a dog might act aggressively cannot be held liable if that dog bites or injures a person. Once one bite or injury has occurred, however, the owner is considered to be "on notice" about the dog's potential danger to others, and the owner may be held liable for later injuries.
Oregon's dog bite law applies both to injuries caused by dog bites and other types of injuries caused by dogs. For instance, if a person is walking down a sidewalk and is knocked over by a large dog, the dog owner may be held liable for any injuries suffered in the fall under the same rules that would be applied to a dog bite.
An Oregon dog owner who is facing a dog bite lawsuit will likely raise one of three defenses: lack of prior knowledge, provocation, or trespassing.
Because Oregon is a "one bite" state, many dog owners may raise the defense that they did not know and could not have known that their dog was "potentially dangerous." Without this knowledge, the owner cannot be held liable for injuries caused by the dog, whether by a bite or by some other dog behavior. Oregon's dog bite statutes specify that a dog cannot be found "potentially dangerous" and an owner cannot be held liable for any dog bite -- even from a "potentially dangerous" dog -- if the dog was provoked. If an injured person provoked a dog, he or she will be responsible for the entire cost of his or her own injuries.
Oregon's laws also specify that liability applies only if the dog is not on its owner's property at the time of the incident. If the injured person is trespassing on the property, he or she may not be able to hold the owner liable for injuries.