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Dog Bite Liability

(Credit: Getty Images)

(Credit: Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - With the number of dog bites estimated at more than 4.5 million a year, who is responsible if your dog bites someone? This is what dog owners need to know.

An Illinois woman recently won a verdict for $140,000 for dog bite injuries she sustained when bitten on both thumbs. The dog owners, also known as her brother and sister-in-law appealed. That’ll make for nice talk around the Thanksgiving table – ‘Remember when we were kids and we used to ride bikes together? Yeah, good times. Before I lost both thumbs in a horrible dog bite incident.’

The dog had no prior history of biting, and the defendants argued they shouldn’t be held liable.

Now that the weather’s nice, if you’re thinking of taking your dog to the park you need to know that in most states the owner of the dog is legally liable to a victim who was bitten even if the dog had never bitten anyone in the past and the owner had no reason to believe it was dangerous. A dog bite victim can sue for the cost of medical treatment, psychological counseling, missed work, or damage to clothes.

Many – but not all – homeowner policies cover dog bites, but some exclude some breeds of dogs from their coverage so read your policy before your next trip with Fido to the park or the Thanksgiving dinner.