From 2005 to 2016, canines killed 392 people in the United States. Dog bite fatalities occur most often in children and the elderly, two of the most vulnerable populations. However, anyone can become a victim of a dog bite injury at any time. Whether a dog belongs to a stranger, friend, or family member, it can cause a harmful and even fatal dog attack.
Victims of dog bite injuries can suffer acute damage and require expensive life-saving and reconstructive surgeries. Speak to the Billings dog bite lawyers at Heenan & Cook, PLLC, for legal help regarding your injury.
Billings Montana Dog Bite Law
Every state has its own dog bite laws and statutes in place. In Montana, most dog owners are subject to dog bite strict liability. This means the state holds dog owners liable for dog bite injuries regardless of fault – as long as the injured party had a lawful right to be where they were when the attack happened. Strict liability does not look at a dog’s prior history of aggression or whether the owner should have reasonably known about a dog’s aggression, like many states’ “one bite rule” holds. Instead, the law makes dog owners liable regardless of prior attack history.
Montana’s strict liability dog bite laws are good news for attack victims, as it lessens the burden of proof during insurance and personal injury claims. However, the state code only applies if the property where the attack happened is “within an incorporated city or town.” This means that in the event of a dog bite injury in a rural part of Montana, the injured party may need to prove that the dog owner was negligent in some way. Dog owner negligence may take the form of failing to leash or secure a pet known to be dangerous.
Dog bite cases often take the form of premises liability accidents. Premises liability laws state that a property owner has a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises for visitors. “Reasonably safe” means taking care of known hazards and warning visitors of potential dangers on a property. Premises liability laws encompass any dogs on a property. If a property owner knows or should have known about a dog’s tendency to bite, the property owner is responsible for ensuring the safety of visitors. This applies not only to dog bite accidents but also to dogs causing property damage or jumping on a visitor and pushing him/her down.
Other Important Dog-Bite-Related Statutes
On top of the Montana state statute, some cities have enacted their own breed-specific laws. In Montana, four cities currently have dog breed ordinances banning different breeds:
- Baker – Pit Bulls and wolf hybrids.
- Libby – Pit Bulls.
- Lincoln County -Pit Bulls and wolf hybrids.
- White Sulphur Springs – Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinschers.
If a banned dog bites a person in a city, the owner of the dog may be automatically liable for breaking the local dog ordinance depending on the rules for that city. Liability depends on the specific ordinance and situation, however. Speak to a local Billings, MT attorney to find out the rules for your municipality.
Many dog bite cases involve complex questions of who is responsible – especially if the legal status of the visitor is a gray area (e.g., a family member visiting a home unexpectedly). An experienced attorney can help present your case in its best light, proving the dog owner’s fault if applicable. In Montana, a person has three years from the date the dog bite injury occurred to file a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner or a third party for injuries and other losses. Don’t wait – contact Heenan & Cook, PLLC, to discuss your dog bite injury in more detail.