Understanding Oregon’s Dog Bite and Owner Liability Laws

Dog bites can be extremely frightening. They may result in virtually no injury at all, to severe, life-changing damages. As unlikely or improbable as getting a dog bite injury may seem to you, the reality is that there are a lot of irresponsible dog owners who have not properly trained their dog. Or they may have trained their dog to be aggressive, hostile, and ready to injure whoever seemingly threatens them. Therefore, you should be proactive and know and understand your rights if you or someone you know sustains a dog bite in Oregon.

Legal Liability for Dog Bites in Oregon

Oregon uses a “one bite” rule when it comes to legal liability for dog bites. Under this rule, the owner or person responsible for the dog is only liable for the bite if he or she was aware that the dog was “potentially dangerous.” That is, if the owner had no idea that the dog would bite anyone or that it was violent, then legal responsibility may not be imposed.

Owners can tell if their dog is “potentially dangerous” if it exhibits several behaviors, including:

  • Barking or otherwise bothering a person while it is not on the owner’s property
  • Physically injuring a person (biting or knocking people over, etc.)
  • Killing or harming a domestic animal, such as another dog or cat, while it is not on its own property

The distinction that the dog is not on its own property is important because many dogs are protective of their “territory.” Dogs are permitted to take some action if intruders come onto the owner’s property uninvited. In fact, many people acquire dogs for this reason.

The “one bite” rule gets its name from the fact that the owner may not realize that the dog is dangerous until after it physically harms someone. Some refer to this law as the “one free bite” rule as well—practically speaking, the dog is permitted to bite someone once before the owner is aware that the dog is a “potentially dangerous dog.” The dog owner may have the defense of not knowing that their dog was dangerous until after it has bitten someone previously.

Negligence and the “One Bite” Rule

Liability under the “one bite” rule is based on negligence. If the owner has reason to know that his or her dog could be violent, then the owner must take extra precautions so that the dog does not harm others. For example, the dog may need to be muzzled in public or may always need to be on a leash. If the owner does not take these precautions, and someone is harmed, then the owner may be legally liable for the dog bite.

Time Limits for Dog Bite Claims

Like all personal injury claims, you must assert a lawsuit within a specified timeframe for it to be valid. In Oregon, dog bite lawsuits must be filed against the owner or liable party within two years of the injury date. Failing to bring the claim within this time frame will likely mean that your claim will be dismissed.

If you or a loved one has suffered through a dog bite in Oregon, you may have legal options. Our experienced and compassionate team can discuss these potential options with you. Contact us for more information.

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Written by Clarke Griffin