Williams, Walsh & O'Connor, LLC

Understanding fault when a dog attacks and bites someone

There are many reasons to keep a dog, from security to personal preference. However, owning a dog comes with serious responsibilities as well.

It only takes a second for dogs to turn vicious. Maybe they think they are protecting their turf or their owner. Perhaps they are stressed by the high-pitched voices of children or reacting to sudden movement. Whatever the reason, they can swiftly inflict serious harm.

Dogs of any breed can cause devastating injuries

When dogs attack, the most common victims are children and the elderly. Children are especially vulnerable to facial bites, which can require reconstructive surgery or cause severe scarring. The elderly are also at high risk for injuries from dogs attacks, including being knocked down by a vicious (or overly friendly) dog. Also common are injuries to the hands, which can result not only in disfiguring scars but lifelong nerve damage.

While people are more likely to distrust certain breeds of dogs, including those originally bred for security or fighting, any kind of dog can inflict injuries. Even a tiny pocket breed could cause permanent injury or disfigurement if the face or hands are bitten. Any person bitten will likely require medical attention and possibly therapy to recover from the attack. If the dog is not up-to-date with its shots, the victim may require painful rabies vaccination as a precaution.

Dog owners are responsible for their animals

Some states only impose liability to animals who are known to be vicious, such as a dog that has previously bitten or attacked a human, or terrorized other pets. Connecticut has a much more straightforward approach to liability for dog bites. Regardless of the animal's background, temperament or history, pet owners are responsible for any personal injury or property damage caused by their dog. This is known as strict liability.

The only exception to this rule is when the person bit was harassing or abusing the dog, trespassing on the owners' property or committing some other kind of crime against the owner or one's property. Barring that, the dog's owner is liable for injuries and the cost incurred by victims, including medical expenses, therapy costs and lost wages. Typically, dog bites are covered by the pet owner’s homeowner insurance, unless the policy specifically excludes dogs or certain breeds.

Those who have suffered a dog bite attack or whose children are victims should explore their options for compensation, including a lawsuit against the owner of the dog. Although owners are strictly liable, collecting full damages may be difficult without legal representation.


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