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Is the Owner Responsible If Their Dog Bites Me?


According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), around 4.5 million dog bites happen in the United States every year. Of those bites, around 900,000 of those wounds become infected. While some dogs are extremely friendly and safe to be around, their behavior will largely depend on their owners. People are generally unsure of how a strange dog will react to their presence, which is why most people keep their pets chained or restrained behind a fence. However, accidents do happen. If a person is bitten by someone’s pet, therefore, would the owner be liable?

Unlike other states, Alaska doesn’t have a specific statute that covers dog bite liability. Rather, dog bite case decisions are made primarily based on other court rulings handed down in the state over the years. For example, In Alaskan Village, Inc. v. Smalley, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled landlords or rental management companies can be held responsible if they know a tenant has a dangerous dog and do not take steps to protect others on the property. During the same case, the court determined if the dog owner acted with malice or reckless indifference and their dog causes an injury, the owner can be held responsible for punitive damages.

If you were bitten by someone else’s dog, be aware Alaska follows a “one bite” rule. In order to hold the owner responsible for your injuries, you must prove the dog’s owner knew or suspected the dog was aggressive. Usually, people can demonstrate this by showing the owner knew the dog had bitten someone previously. However, evidence of a prior incident is not necessary if other evidence exists that the dog was aggressive or prone to attack.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the bite, a dog owner could argue that you had some responsibility in the event. Under Alaska’s comparative negligence rules, if you are found even partially responsible for the injury, you may not receive full compensation for any medical expenses and lost wages that may have occurred as a result of the bite. Likewise, if you were trespassing at the time of the incident, the owner could not only prevent you from seeking compensation, they may also be able to press charges against you for being on their property when you legally have no right to be. If you have questions about your case, don’t hesitate to speak with our experienced attorney.

If you’d like to file, you have within 2 years of the incident to do so. In cases where a lawsuit was filed after that statute of limitations, the court will almost always refuse to hear it. If you’re concerned about your case, don’t hesitate to call us. The Law Offices of David Henderson has been helping people seek compensation for their injuries for years. Let our experienced Anchorage personal injury attorney see what he can do for you.

Talk to us at (888) 295-6566 or fill out our online form to schedule a free case evaluation today.