Oregon Dog Bite Laws

An Oregon dog owner's liability for bites and other injuries, state deadlines for filing a dog bite lawsuit in court, and more.

If you're an Oregon dog owner, or you've been injured by someone else's animal in the state, Oregon's dog bite injury liability laws may be of particular interest to you. In this article, we'll discuss:

  • the statute of limitations deadline for filing a dog bite lawsuit in Oregon's court system
  • Oregon's status as a "strict liability" state for purposes of a dog owner's responsibility for the claimant's medical bills and other financial losses arising from a bite or other incident
  • how a dog owner's negligence affects a dog bite injury claim in Oregon, and
  • common defenses an Oregon dog owner might raise in response to a personal injury lawsuit over a bite or other animal-caused injury.

The Oregon Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Lawsuits

Laws called statutes of limitations impose a deadline on your right to file a civil lawsuit in your state's courts. Different kinds of cases are subject to different time limits, but the consequences of missing the filing window are the same: the court will dismiss your case as "time-barred" unless a rare extension of the filing deadline is called for based on the circumstances.

Oregon has not passed a specific statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits. Instead, these claims typically fall under the larger umbrella of "personal injury," and Oregon's statute of limitations for personal injury cases (Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.110) says: "An action...for any injury to the person or rights of another...shall be commenced within two years." That means you'll need to file your personal injury complaint in court against the dog owner within two years of the date of the bite or other injury.

Dog Owner's Strict Liability for "Economic Damages" In Oregon

Oregon Revised Statutes section 31.360 establishes a dog owner's "strict liability" for "economic damages" resulting from an injury caused by the dog. "Strict liability" means the owner is automatically liable, and cannot escape fault for injuries by claiming lack of knowledge that the dog might bite, or that all reasonable precautions were taken to prevent the injury.

Section 31.360 states that "the plaintiff need not prove that the owner of the dog could foresee that the dog would cause the injury," and the dog's owner "may not assert as a defense that the owner could not foresee that the dog would cause the injury."

Learn more about strict liability and other fault rules in dog bite cases.

Under Oregon law, "economic damages" include:

  • medical bills ("reasonable charges necessarily incurred for medical, hospital, nursing and rehabilitative services and other health care services")
  • loss of income and past and future impairment of earning capacity, and
  • reasonable and necessary expenses incurred for substitute domestic services.

Learn more about different kinds of damages in a personal injury case.

Dog Owner Negligence and Dog Bite Liability In Oregon

In Oregon, a dog owner whose negligence results in a dog bite injury—or an injury caused by tripping, frightening or knocking down the victim—can be held liable for all resulting losses.

The key here is that the full spectrum of damages will be available to a claimant who can demonstrate the dog owner's negligence, including compensation for "pain and suffering" and other non-economic effects of the incident and resulting injuries. Learn more about proving negligence in a personal injury case.

Defenses to Dog Owner Liability In Oregon

If the injury claimant provoked the dog, the animal's owner might not be liable for the claimant's medical bills or any other losses arising from the incident. And if the claimant was trespassing on the animal owner's property, the owner may also avoid liability for any losses resulting from a bite or other animal-caused injury.

If you find yourself on either side of a dog bite claim—as a dog owner or as someone who suffered a bite or other injury—it may be time to discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer.

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