Tennessee law provides that a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by his or her dog if that owner either fails to keep the dog under reasonable control at all times, or if the owner allows the dog to run at large. This means that the owner may be held liable regardless of whether the dog has shown any dangerous propensities or whether the dog's owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensities. This also means the victim does not have to prove the owner was negligent. The owner is strictly liable for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another.
However, there are exceptions to this strict liability rule. Generally speaking, the owner will not be liable under the following circumstances:
1. The injury occurred from a police or military dog during the course of the dog's official duties;
2. The injury occurred when the injured person was trespassing upon the private, nonresidential property of the dog's owner;
3. The injury occurred while the dog was protecting the dog's owner or other innocent party from attack by the injured person or a dog owned by the injured person;
4. The injury occurred while the dog was securely confined in a kennel, crate or other enclosure; or
5. The injury occurred as a result of the injured person enticing, disturbing, alarming, harassing, or otherwise provoking the dog.
In addition to the exceptions listed above, the most notable exception under Tennessee law is the "residential exception." Under this exception, strict liability does not attach to the dog owner if the dog causes damage to a person while the person is on residential, farm or other noncommercial property owned by the dog's owner, or is on the property by permission of the owner or as a lawful tenant or lessee. In those cases, the injured person has to establish that the dog's owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensities. This is known as the "one bite" rule. In other words, the dog owner gets the first bite free of liability unless the victim can prove that the owner knew the dog was likely to bite, which is very hard to prove.
There are many other factors that can influence your ability to recover damages for a dog bite in Tennessee. Tennessee's complicated, hybrid system of liability for dog bites can make it very difficult to recover compensation after a dog attack. Contact our knowledgeable dog bite attorneys immediately if you or a loved one have been bitten or attacked by a dog.
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, here is a helpful checklist of things you or a loved one should do immediately, or a soon as possible:
1. Get medical treatment immediately;
2. Contact animal control and report the attack;
3. Have someone take photographs of your injuries;
4. Continue to photograph any injuries as they change and/or heal;
5. Get contact information for any witnesses; and
Contact the attorneys at Bordulis Law before you speak with anyone else, especially an insurance adjuster.
Turn to Bordulis Law If You Have Been Attacked or Bitten by a Dog in Tennessee
We understand that dog attacks can be very traumatic experiences, and our attorneys are here to make sure you can focus on recovery and getting the medical treatment you need while we pursue your legal claim.
1. Investigate the accident from all angles. This may involve taking scene photos, interviewing witnesses and getting their statements, interviewing neighbors about the dog, determine the availability of insurance from the dog owner or landowner, etc.
2. Collect your medical records and records supporting lost wages, if any;
3. Collect records regarding the dog, including veterinary records;
4. Investigate any other previous incidents involving the dog;
5. Negotiate with the insurance company;
6. Work diligently to ensure you get the most compensation possible for the injuries you sustained, along with your pain and suffering, the loss of enjoyment of your life, medical bills, lost wages, and any other damages you have sustained.
We will move your claim forward and be your voice, tirelessly pursuing the compensation you deserve. Contact us now at (615) 541-2321 for a free, no-obligation consultation in which we will thoroughly review your claim.