Owner is strictly liable. Even if the owner is very cautious, they remain responsible for the acts of their dog. An exception is if attack is on owner’s property and the victim is trespassing.
In many counties the owner is responsible for their dog if it harms someone while in public and not under control by the owner. Each county has it’s own animal control code to address this situation. In Multnomah and Clackamas counties the owner is responsible.
Under this circumstance it is unlikely that the owner will be completely liable for their dog’s actions. ORS 31.360 allows for economic damages even when the attack was not foreseeable. Non-economic damages under these circumstances would require evidence that the attack was foreseeable.
Oregon Dog Bite Information
Dog bite cases can be devastating and often involve children. Oregon dog bite law is sometimes misunderstood even by lawyers that take these cases. The law is different based on the situation. The three basic situations in Oregon dog bite law are: a dog with a history of being violent and the owner knows it, a dog without a history but in public and not under the owner’s control and a dog without a history at home under the owner’s control.
In the first situation the dog owner knows their dog is vicious.
Maybe the dog has attacked or bitten someone before or maybe the owner just knows it by other means. If that is the case, then the dog owner is strictly liable for any injury the dog causes regardless of the amount of care the owner took to prevent an attack. The only exception to this rule is if the injured person is trespassing on the property of the dog owner when attacked. Call Portland dog bite lawyer Chad Stavley to discuss maximizing your recovery.
In the second situation the dog owner is unaware that the dog is vicious but the dog is in public without being controlled by a leash or otherwise.
Under these circumstances it would be important to look to city animal control ordinances. In Multnomah County, for instance, there is an ordinance (13.305 (B)(1) which makes a dog owner responsible for the actions of their dog when the dog is “at large” in the county. In this instance the dog’s owner would also be responsible. Other counties have similar laws (such as Clackamas County code 5.01.040).
The last situation involves a dog that is on its owner’s property, or is otherwise being controlled by the owner, and has no history of vicious behavior that the owner knew or should have known of.
In this circumstance, if the dog bites a visitor, the owner is not responsible for the bite.
Most homeowner’s insurance policies in Oregon cover dog bite cases.
Policies also usually have “med-pay” coverage to help pay for your medical bills until the case is resolved. Med-pay is no-fault coverage. So in the circumstance above where the bite was by a dog not known to be vicious and at the owner’s home or otherwise being controlled, you or your child may at least be able to get medical coverage. Sometimes the owner of the dog refuses to give you their homeowner’s policy information. We can help with that too. While homeowner’s insurance usually covers Oregon dog bites, sometimes the dog is the property of a renter that doesn’t have insurance. Under certain circumstances the landlord can be responsible for the damages. It is important to discuss all your options with a Portland dog bite attorney as soon as possible.