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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

What Is the Dog Bite Law in Ohio? | Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys

The laws surrounding dog bites under Ohio law ensure everyone, both the two-legged and the four-legged pals, are safe and sound.

However, victims on the receiving end of a not-so-friendly canine encounter must know how to prove liability against the at-fault party. In the Buckeye State, the dog bite law is pretty straightforward. Ohio follows a "strict liability" rule, meaning the owner is responsible for their pet's actions.

It doesn't matter if the animal has a clean record or if this is their first time behaving aggressively. In this event, if a pet decides to take a nibble and break the skin, the dog's owner is on the hook for it unless proven otherwise.

Also, it's worth noting that law enforcement officers are not exempt from these rules. If a police dog bites someone while on duty, the same laws apply. The badge doesn't grant immunity under Ohio dog bite laws.

Causes of Action Under Ohio Dog Bite Law

Causes of Action Under Ohio Dog Bite Law

Dog bite cases typically revolve around two key legal concepts: strict liability and negligence.

Strict Liability

This legal doctrine means that a dog's owner is held responsible for any injuries caused by their furry companion, regardless of the dog's previous behavior. It's a no-nonsense approach, emphasizing that owning a dog has an inherent responsibility to ensure it doesn't cause harm.

If "Fido," for example, uses someone's hand as a chew toy, the owner can't simply plead ignorance or innocence.

Ohio dog bite law firmly places the onus on them, creating a straightforward path for dog bite victims to seek compensation for their injuries. Strict liability is a legal spotlight – it cuts through excuses and focuses on accountability.


On the other hand, negligence comes into play when the owner fails to exercise reasonable care in controlling their pet. Thus, they allow it to bite or attack someone.

This introduces a more complex layer to the legal proceedings. Instead of the automatic responsibility seen in strict liability, negligence demands examining the circumstances surrounding the dog bite.

Did the owner fail to secure their dog properly? Were there warning signs of aggressive behavior that the owner ignored?

In negligence cases, the focus shifts to the actions – or inactions – of the dog owner. It involves unraveling a web of carelessness to determine if the owner's behavior contributed to the dog bite accident.

Is the Dog Owner Always Liable in a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

The question of liability isn't as black and white as it may seem. While Ohio operates on a strict liability basis for dog bites, there are situations where the blame game isn't so straightforward.

1. One-bite Rule

Generally, the state follows a form of the "one-bite" rule. This doctrine doesn't grant a free pass for the first bite. Instead, it considers if the dog owner genuinely had no reason to believe their pet could be aggressive.

In essence, if "Fido" has a clean record and the owner had no prior knowledge of aggressive tendencies, they may find themselves in a different legal position. This one-bite rule provides a limited defense for dog owners who argue they had no reason to suspect their furry pal would bite someone.

2. Provocation

If the person bitten engaged in behavior that reasonably provoked the pet, the owner will have more leverage against the other party. Ohio law recognizes that dogs, like people, have their limits, and provocation can be a mitigating factor.

As a result, if the dog bite victims were teasing or tormenting the pet before the bite occurred, the court might view the owner's liability differently.

3. Trespassing

While the law protects those who may be bitten while lawfully on public or private property, trespassers face a different scenario.

Sometimes, the dog owner may not be held fully accountable for injuries inflicted upon a trespasser. However, it's essential to note that this doesn't provide a carte blanche for dog owners to let their pets loose on trespassers.

4. Contributory Negligence

Lastly, the court may assign a level of shared responsibility if the victim contributed to the incident through their actions. This could be done by ignoring warning signs or taking unnecessary risks. In these situations, the legal scale weighs the actions of both parties involved.

It considers whether the person bitten had a reasonable opportunity to avoid the dangerous dog or if their behavior increased the risk of a bite.

Dog owners and passersby have equal responsibility for maintaining safety on private properties. Hiring a qualified dog bite lawyer in Cincinnati OH for such lawsuits is the best way to ensure maximum settlement for the innocent party. Attorneys can also help the victim file a claim successfully if they didn't know how to report a dog bite in Ohio in the first place.

Injuries Caused by Dog Bites

When a man's best friend becomes a source of harm, the consequences can be more than just skin deep. While varying in severity, dog bite injuries can leave lasting physical and emotional imprints on those affected.

Physical Trauma

At the forefront of a dog bite injury lies the physical trauma inflicted on the victim. From superficial scratches to deep puncture wounds, the severity of these injuries can range widely.

While some may heal with time and proper care, others may need extensive medical attention. Treatment usually includes stitches, antibiotics, and even reconstructive surgery.

One of the distinctive characteristics of dog bites is the potential for crushing injuries. Canine jaws with powerful muscles can exert significant pressure, leading to bone fractures and tissue damage. In severe cases, the injury can lead to nerve impairment.

Anyone suffering from a severe dog bite injury should hire an Ohio dog bite lawyer for legal representation. Expert assistance can help victims recover compensation for medical expenses and emotional turmoil.


A dog's mouth has many bacteria. The potential for infection is substantial when introduced into the human body through a bite wound. From cellulitis to more severe conditions like sepsis, the aftermath of a dog bite can extend far beyond the initial injury.

Prompt medical attention is crucial to mitigate infection risks. Even seemingly minor bites can become serious health issues if not properly treated.

Psychological Damage

In the aftermath of a dog bite, the impact isn't limited to the physical injuries. The psychological toll can be profound, leaving victims grappling with fear, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Also, the emotional scars may persist long after the physical wounds have healed, affecting a person's sense of safety and comfort around dogs.

Can a Dog Bite Victim Recover Full Compensation?

While seeking compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial toll of a dog bite is a valid pursuit, the path to full recovery is subject to various factors and legal considerations. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys are able to answer questions such as Can you sue for a dog bite in Ohio?

One of the primary avenues for compensation lies in the dog owner's insurance coverage. Homeowner's or renters' insurance typically covers liability for dog bites. If the owner has an insurance policy that includes liability coverage, it may provide the victim with a source of financial recovery.

However, the limits of the insurance policy play a crucial role. In some cases, the policy may not cover the full extent of medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. The severity of the injuries sustained in a dog bite claim significantly influences the potential for full compensation.

More severe injuries, such as deep dog bite wounds, fractures, or lasting emotional trauma, may incur higher medical expenses and non-economic damages. The general dog bite statute of limitations in Ohio is six years from the date of the dog attack.

Legal disputes surrounding an Ohio dog bite case are often resolved through negotiation and settlement rather than a full-blown trial. Through effective negotiation, the victim and the dog owner – often encouraged by their respective legal representatives – may reach a settlement agreement.

Dangerous Dog Restrictions Under Ohio Law

According to the law, a dangerous dog is one that, without provocation, has:

  • Injured an innocent person.

  • Killed another dog/animal.

  • Been declared dangerous by the court due to aggressive behavior.

Once the jury deems a dog dangerous, Ohio law mandates specific requirements to minimize the risk of further incidents. Owners must confine their dangerous pets indoors or in a locked pen or structure with a secure top.

If outside, they must be muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash (less than six feet) under the control of a person of suitable age and discretion. The confinement measures prevent dangerous dogs from roaming freely, potentially threatening the community.

Final Words

The law doesn't take the financial responsibility of pet ownership lightly, especially when it comes to dangerous dogs. All owners must face hefty penalties if their pet causes unwarranted harm to innocent passersby. On top of that, aggressive dogs may also be put down for repeated attacks.

Dog attack lawsuits are usually complicated, with victims sharing assigned faults in many cases. A reputable law firm can uncover the truth and ensure the right person recovers compensation for their physical and emotional trauma.

Stating, "We Go to War for You," Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys offers free consultation sessions to victims of dangerous dog bite cases.


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