“My son was bitten in a one bite state. I contacted the homeowner’s insurance company of the dog owner. They told me that there is a ‘first free bite’ rule, and said they will not pay anything over $1,000. Is there nothing that I can do?”
In your state, you have to produce evidence of one (not all, but just one) of the following causes of action:
The one bite rule. You need proof that (a) the dog previously behaved viciously toward people, and (b) the dog owner knew about that previous vicious behavior.
Negligence per se. You have to prove that the other party violated an animal control ordinance at the time of the accident in question. To do so, you have to show (a) the existence of a city, county or state law that regulated the confinement or control of the dog, and (b) proof that there was a violation of that law at the time of the accident. Typical examples are a leash law, a law that prohibits dogs from be at large, and a law that prohibits dogs from trespassing on private property or being present in certain public places. An important and often overlooked example is a prior order from the animal control authorities, requiring special confinement or control of that particular dog. Be sure to read the note below.
Negligence. The negligence can be on the part of almost anyone whose unreasonable behavior caused or contributed toward the accident. See the note, below.
Note: Before you use any negligence theory, check to see whether your state recognizes the cause of action for negligence. Type the name of your state in the Google search box, above. Then click on the link to the law of your state on the dogbitelaw.com website.
For more information, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA and be sure to read Should Parents Get a Lawyer for Their Injured Child?