Dog bites pose a frequent and serious health concern in today’s society and are the basis for a significant number of civil suits every year. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, half of which are usually children, and 800,000 of which are serious enough to require medical attention. In 2017 dog bites accounted for one-third of all homeowners’ liability insurance claims, costing in excess of $700 million with an average payout in excess of $35,000.

Just like the rest of the nation, dog bites are a serious issue in Tennessee and are a frequent source of civil liability claims in Tennessee Courts. So much so, in fact, that the Tennessee legislature passed a law for the specific purpose of determining civil liability for injuries caused by dogs.

An overview of dog bite law

Generally, the statute requires dog owners to keep their animal under reasonable control at all time, which includes keeping the animal from running at large. Owners who fail in those duties can find themselves liable for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the animal in either (1) a public place, or (2) while lawfully on private property.
Importantly, in Tennessee, a dog owner can be found liable regardless of whether the dog had ever shown itself to be dangerous. There are several exceptions to that rule, however:

  1. Where the dog was a policy or military animal performing its duties;
  2. The injured person was trespassing on the owner’s property;
  3. The injury occurred while the dog was protecting an innocent person from attack;
  4. The injury occurred while the dog was contained in a kennel or cage; or
  5. The injury occurred as a result of the injured person provoking or harassing the dog.

Dog bite litigation is a complex area of law that involves far more than the general overview above and includes a host of legal principles, such as negligence, intentional tort, insurance liability, premises liability, property ownership and others. The complexity of this area of litigation makes proper legal representation necessary for both victims seeking compensation for their injuries, as well as for pet owners whose dog bit someone.

Regardless of which side you find yourself on, the experienced dog bite attorneys at Batson Nolan are prepared to guide you through your dog bite case and provide the excellent representation you need. As the oldest law office in the State of Tennessee, the litigators at Batson Nolan know exactly how to maximize your potential recovery through quality, aggressive litigation. Call us today.