What Happens If Your Dog Bites Someone in Iowa?
Every dog owner wants to believe their pet would never bite someone, but sometimes things happen unexpectedly. Understanding dog bite liability law in Iowa helps owners know where they stand and how to proceed if an unfortunate incident occurs.
The State of Iowa imposes a strict liability law on all dog owners whose pets bite or injure a person. This means they are liable for all damages- regardless of the circumstances. There are very few exceptional cases where it would not apply.
More on Iowa’s Dog Bite Laws
As a dog owner, a person is liable for all damages if their pet:
Maims, worries, or kills another domestic animal or is caught in the act of doing so
Attacks or attempts to attack or bite a human
However, they may not be liable if the following statements are true.
The victim was committing an unlawful act at the time of the attack.
Injuries sustained can be contributed to the unlawful act being committed.
A dog has rabies, and the owner did not know and had no opportunity to seek proper care for the animal before the incident.
Because Iowa has a strict liability law for dog-related injuries, claims are not limited to bites alone. Owners are responsible for all damages- which extend to injuries or discomfort caused by pouncing or other invasive behaviors.
Iowa Dog Bites and Negligence
Unless the dog was rabid (see above), the owner is liable regardless of how the incident transpired. Whether they were present or not, if the dog was restrained, if the dog was well cared for, or if the dog was able to escape their control- they are considered the negligent party.
Again, the only reason an owner would not be considered negligent – other than their dog having rabies- is the dog acting in response to an illegal act. Examples of this include entering private property without permission, a person attacking another person and the dog acting in defense or stopping someone from fleeing the scene of a crime they committed.
Defending Against Dog-Related Injury Claims in Iowa
If a non-rabid dog bites or injures a person who is in no way committing an unlawful act, there is no strong defense for the animal’s owner. They are likely to be found liable through negligence for allowing their pet the opportunity to attack.
Iowa’s liability definitions are all-encompassing, so it is extremely difficult to avoid charges if the pet acted without cause. The only route is to prove the victim was indisputably in the wrong.
The Trespassing Defense
The most common defense for dog-related injury claims is that the victim was trespassing on private property at the time of the attack. In most cases, a dog owner is not liable for any injuries caused to a trespasser- although they may have to show that the act of trespassing directly contributed to the injury. An example could be that the dog was startled or alerted during the invasion.
If an owner can prove that the victim was on their property without permission or valid purpose at the time of the bite or attack, they may not be liable for any damages.
However, they could still be found negligent if they know their dog has dangerous propensities- regardless of whether or not reasonable care was exercised. In essence, if an owner knows their dog is dangerous, vicious, or displays threatening behavior towards humans habitually, they could still be liable- even if the victim was trespassing.
Exceptions can be made if the owner can prove all possible precautions were taken to stop a dangerous dog from being able to attack- for example, the dog was sufficiently chained or caged- and the trespasser put themselves in a position where the dog was still able to attack. The breed of dog is often a key component in cases of this nature as well as a doctor reporting the dog bite.
Why Contact a Lawyer?
Dog bite liability in Iowa almost always falls on the shoulders of the owner. Negligence is usually automatically assumed unless valid proof can be shown otherwise. These cases can be complicated- especially if the dog is of a breed that is considered potentially dangerous. Experienced dog bite lawyers in Des Moines can explore all defense options and look for any elements to strengthen a case.
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, it is also important to speak with a legal expert to understand your rights and how to move forward. They can also
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