Can I Sue the Owner of a Dog that Bites Me? By on October 02, 2015

Often, lawyers are asked about whether a lawsuit may be brought for harm caused by a dog bite. Montana does permit recovery for injuries due to dog bites, provided they are filed within three years. However, the standard to prove a dog bite case depends on the circumstances, and there are at least two defenses to dog bite claims.

The Montana Legislature has passed what is known as a “strict liability” law that governs dog bites that occur in incorporated cities or towns. This means that unless a defense applies, dog owners are liable to the person bitten, contingent upon a few factors:

  • The injury occurred in an incorporated city or town;
  • The dog had not been provoked; and
  • The victim was either in a public place or was lawfully on private property.
What’s more, when these circumstances apply, Montana applies a “one-bite” rule, which means that the dog need not have been known as vicious or to have bitten anyone before for the owner to be held liable.

Montana’s law specifically includes postal workers as “lawfully” on private property, as well as those invited to the property.

The owner of a dog who violates Montana’s one-bite rule in cities and towns may assert two defenses to the claim: provocation and trespassing. To prove the provocation defense, the dog’s owner would need to demonstrate that the dog was provoked, resulting in the bite. The second defense would require the owner to show that the person who was bitten was trespassing on private property.

The strict liability statute does not apply in rural areas. In such a case, the victim would need to show that the bite resulted from the owner’s negligence in controlling the dog. Recovery might also require the victim to show that the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s violent tendencies.

If you have suffered an injury at the hands of another, you may have a right to recover under Montana law. Tipp & Buley has a long history representing victims of personal injury in Western Montana. Please call today to discuss the facts of your case: 406-549-5186..

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