The one bite rule refers to a law held by 19 U.S. states that dictates that a dog owner is only responsible for dog bite or dog attack injuries if his or her dog has a history of biting, attacking or being aggressive towards people. Essentially, the one bite rule gives dog owners a “free pass” the first time their dog bites, attacks or behaves aggressively towards another person.
Following the initial incident of aggression, however, dog owners are considered to have been warned that their dogs have the potential to be dangerous. As a result, they are liable for paying damages to any future victims that their dogs may bite, attack or otherwise harm.
It’s important to note that a dog does not have to physically bite or attack another person for the dog owner to be considered to have been warned about the possible dangerous nature of his or her dog. According to the one bite rule, it can be enough for the dog to have snarled, growled or snapped at a person for the one “free pass” to have been used up and for the dog owner to be considered to have been warned about his dog’s potential for aggression.
In both Illinois and Missouri, the one bite rule does not apply, meaning that a dog bite victim can file a lawsuit against a dog owner even if the dog does not have a history of aggression.
Factors Involved in One Bite Rule Cases
When a dog bite lawsuit goes to court and the one bite rule applies, the following factors may also play a role in the case:
- A dog’s history of threatening behavior
- A dog’s history of jumping on people (even if it’s playful, jumping on people can cause injury if the dog is particularly large, and owners should be aware of their dog’s tendency to do so)
- A dog’s history of fighting with other dogs or being trained to fight
- Previous complaints about the dog (though complaints regarding barking alone will typically not affect the case)
- The dog’s breed (Missouri does not currently have Dangerous Dog laws, Illinois does)