Getting attacked by a dog can be a devastating experience, especially when the animal attacks a small child. While a person of any age can be seriously injured by a dog bite, toddlers and young kids tend to sustain serious and life-threatening injuries more often than adults who are bitten by dogs. To be sure, according to DogsBite.org, 60% of all dog bite fatality victims are children under the age of 10. Moreover, you are actually more likely to be bitten by a dog if you live in a household with one or more dogs. Yet not all dog bites result in the dog owner’s liability. How do you know if you have a valid dog bite claim?
The following are five things to consider in determining whether you have a valid dog bite claim.
Were Your Injuries Caused by the Dog Bite?
Hawaii dog bite law operates on a theory that the injured person does not have to prove that the dog owner knew the dog was vicious or dangerous in order for the dog owner to be liable for injuries. The statute clarifies that “the owner or harborer of an animal, if the animal proximately causes either person or property damage to any person, shall be liable in damages to the person injured regardless of the animal owner’s or harborer’s lack of scienter of the vicious or dangerous propensities of the animal.”
In other words, if the dog caused your injuries, many times the mere fact that the owner is responsible for the dog makes the owner liable.
Were You Lawfully in the Place Where the Dog Bit You?
While Hawaii’s dog bite laws are strongly in favor of injured parties, there are some limitations. The injured person must have been lawfully in the place where the animal attack occurred in order for the dog owner to be liable. In other words, if you were trespassing, the owner may not be liable for your injuries.
Did You Provoke the Dog?
In addition to the limitation for people who were trespassing, a Maui dog owner also may not be liable for a person’s injuries if the injured person provoked the dog.
Did the Owner Have Knowledge of the Dog’s Previous Vicious Behavior?
While most dog bite claims are brought under the above theories of liability, it may be possible to bring a negligence claim after a dog bite injury. For example, if a dog owner knew that the dog previously attacked someone and did not take precautions against a subsequent attack, then the dog owner may be negligent.
Did the Dog Bite Occur Less Than Two Years Ago?
Under Hawaii’s statute of limitations for most personal injury claims—including dog bites—the injured person must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the injury. If you are the person who was injured, you are permitted to file a lawsuit as long as the injury occurred less than two years ago. If more time has passed, you claim may be time-barred. If you are thinking about filing a wrongful death claim after a deadly dog bite injury, the person’s death must have occurred within the last two years under Hawaii’s wrongful death law.