Dogs are a very popular pet among Oregon families—but these animals can be very dangerous. Aggressive, dangerous dogs can attack others, leading to severe injuries and debilitating long-term effects. The financial and emotional impact of dog bites can be equally severe. If you are a dog bite victim in Oregon, you may have the right to hold the owner accountable for your injuries. However, you will need to understand how to file a dog bite claim in Oregon.
United States dog bite laws typically fall into two categories: strict liability and the one-bite rule. In one-bite rule states, dog bite victims are only eligible for a lawsuit if the owner knew or should have known that the dog might bite. Essentially, the first bite or act of aggressive behavior is liability-free, but the next victim could file a claim.
Oregon is a strict liability state, meaning that dog owners are liable for any bites even if the dog did not have a history of biting. Victims can file a claim for any dog bite injury they suffer, even if negligence was not a factor in the attack. However, victims can only recover economic damages in dog bite lawsuits.
Economic damages refer to your financial losses, such as lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage. You can recover compensation for non-economic losses, such as physical pain and emotional trauma if negligence played a role in the attack. For example, say that the owner knew the dog likes to chase people on bicycles, which can often result in a bicycle accident in Portland. While you are biking down a public street, the owner lets go of the animal’s leash.
In this situation, you can hold him or her accountable for the full extent of your damages. Portland requires dog owners to keep animals on leashes unless they are in an off-leash area. Since the owner let go of the leash in a public place, he or she breached his or her duty to follow applicable leash laws and thus acted in negligence.
In Oregon, you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit in civil court. According to the state’s statute of limitations, you have two years from the date of the bite to file your claim. If you do not file within this timeframe, the court will dismiss your case. While there are exceptions to this rule, they are not common in dog bite cases—so it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
There are certain defenses that a dog owner may take to protect himself or herself from liability. As a dog bite victim, you are only eligible for compensation if you can prove that the dog attacked you while you were in a public place, or lawfully in a private place. You will also need to prove that you did not provoke the animal to attack.
The owner may claim you were trespassing at the time of the attack. He or she may also state that you provoked the incident by annoying the dog, hurting the dog, or putting the owner in danger. In these situations, your award could be at risk due to Oregon’s comparative negligence laws. The court will reduce your settlement by the percentage of fault you share, and if you are more than 50% at fault, you will not recover any compensation.
Hiring a dog bite attorney to represent your case can help. An Oregon dog bite lawyer will have the skills, resources, and experience to launch a full investigation into the attack and craft a compelling case for compensation. As soon as possible after the attack, contact an attorney to discuss your legal options.
As a last note, I recently came across this great article by Dr. Libby Guise, that discusses why dogs bite, and how to best treat the bite. This is a great source from a dog-friendly website.