Understanding Rhode Island’s Dog Bite Laws

Although over 50 percent of dog bites occur in the home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dog bites can happen anywhere and sometimes with no warning. If you were bitten by someone else’s dog, it’s important you understand what Rhode Island law says about who is liable, why the location of the incident is important, and how an attorney can help you.Dog bite liability

Who’s Liable for the Dog’s Attack?

When a bite occurs off the owner’s property, Rhode Island dog bite law operates under strict liability. This means the owner or whoever is the “keeper” of the dog is liable for any injury or damages the dog causes. Therefore, even if the bite incident occurs while the dog is in the care of someone other than the owner, either the owner or the person immediately responsible for the dog’s actions (such as a dog-walker) can be held liable for the attack. However, strict liability applies only if:

  • The injured person had permission to be present in the location where the bite occurred
  • The injured person didn’t antagonize the dog who bit him

The One-Bite Rule

Rhode Island law makes a clear distinction between bites occurring on or off the owner’s property. If someone is injured by a dog while on the dog owner’s property, the strict liability dog bite law doesn’t apply. Consequently, the dog bite victim has to seek liability under the “one bite” rule. This rule states that the owner of the dog is liable for the injury if he knew that the dog would act in an aggressive manner because of:  

  • A prior bite incident
  • A recent surgery or injury, making the dog more sensitive
  • An historically aggressive breed
  • A history of aggression without a bite

How an Attorney Can Help You Recover

If you were the victim of a dog bite, it’s important to consult with a lawyer about your next steps. At Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, we can help you gather evidence, file a claim properly within the three-year time limit, and negotiate a fair settlement to cover your injuries. To get started, fill out the online contact form on our website today.