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 Who Is Liable for a Dog Bite in New Haven?

May 17, 2024Articles

We like to think of our dogs as beloved furry family members. Still, it’s important to acknowledge that “man’s best friend” is also an animal with sharp teeth and motives we don’t always anticipate or understand. Every day in the United States, nearly 1,000 people receive emergency treatment for dog bites. In a single recent year, data shows 1,025 local and national news reports of dog bite fatalities in the U.S.

Dog bites are serious injuries, often ending in painful wounds, infection, permanent scarring, and disfigurement. Some dog attacks end in wrongful death. Serious dog bite injuries are expensive to treat, as well as painful and debilitating. It’s important to understand who is liable for damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering after a dog bite in New Haven or elsewhere in Connecticut.

Connecticut’s Strict Liability Law for Dog Bites

For most injuries, claiming compensation requires proving negligence. For instance, after a car accident in Connecticut, an injury victim must prove the driver who hit them committed a negligent act, leaving them liable for the damages. For dog bites, the law in Connecticut holds pet owners strictly liable for any injury or property damage caused by their dog from the moment they take ownership of the pet. Connecticut’s statute CGS § 22-357 states:


“a dog’s owner or keeper is liable for injuries caused by the dog to someone else’s person or property. This is a strict liability statute – in other words, it does not require the victim to prove that the dog’s owner or keeper knew that the dog was vicious or was otherwise negligent.”

Most states have strict liability laws for dog bites, but a handful of states require victims to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent because they knew the dog had a history of biting or aggression at least one other time (the one-bite rule). In Connecticut, a dog bite victim does not have to prove negligence; however, in some cases, a dog bite victim could pursue compensation under negligent liability; for example, a rental property owner could be held liable for a dog bite after negligently allowing a dangerous dog to remain on their property if the dog has previously shown aggression.

What If A Dog Bites Someone On Their Owner’s Property?

The strict liability law applies to dog bites in New Haven even if they occur on private property as long as the bite victim was legally on the property and not trespassing, committing a crime, or tormenting the dog. The dog’s owner cannot be held liable for damages if the injury victim was committing a crime at the time the attack occurred or was abusing the dog. The law does not consider delivery workers, solicitors, neighbors, and other visitors approaching the front of a home as trespassers. Instead, Connecticut upholds the premise that the property owner should reasonably expect people to approach the front of their home.

Children under the age of seven are never considered trespassers even if they enter a property uninvited and not at the home’s curtilage (front area). Also, a dog’s owner is not exempt from strict liability if a dog bites a child unless the dog’s owner proves that the child teased or tormented the dog. Under Connecticut Statute CGS § 22-357, the law states the following:

“The law presumes that anyone under the age of seven was not committing any of these actions (such as trespassing or teasing the dog) unless the defendant can prove otherwise.”

Despite strict liability laws, some property insurance companies dispute dog bite compensation claims. Victims of dog bite injuries should hire an experienced New Haven dog bite lawyer before making a claim.