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Dogs bite! When can you recover for a dog bite in Ohio?

In Ohio, there are two means of recovery for those who have suffered from a dog bite, attack, mauling, or other injury to themselves or their property (including their pets!).

(1) State Statute
Under Ohio’s state statutes, specifically Section 955.28(B) of the Ohio Revised Code, a dog’s owner, keeper, and/or harborer is strictly liable for any harm the dog causes unless the person who suffered the injury was:
-committing or attempting to commit criminal trespass or another criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer;
-committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor against any person; or
-teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner’s, keeper’s, or harborer’s property.

Further, the statute does not limit recovery to injury from just dog bites–recovery can be sought for any injury to a person or property that is caused by the dog (subject to the above exceptions).

(2) Common Law
Under common law, dogs essentially get “one free bite.” The injured person needs to prove that the dog’s owner knew the dog was vicious and that the owner was negligent in handling/keeping the dog. Thus, common law claims can be far more difficult to prove.

Fortunately, injured parties can pursue a case under either or both laws.

One major difference is that common law allows the injured party to recover money for “punitive damages” (money awarded to “punish” the dog owner) as well as compensation for injuries.

If an injured party pursues a case only under Ohio’s statutory law, the party cannot recover punitive damages.

Generally, noting the exceptions above, a person damaged by a dog bite is entitled to full compensation for their injuries under either theory. Compensation includes both payment medical bills, lost wages, related out-of-pocket expenses and scarring, “pain and suffering,” etc.

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