A close look at Oklahoma’s dog bite laws

Oklahoma sets a statute of limitations on when a dog bite claim may be filed and assigns strict liability to pet owners.

A dog bite in Oklahoma can be incredibly devastating. The physical effects alone can last a lifetime, ranging from permanent scarring to reconstructive surgery. Even a seemingly small bite can leave a devastating impression on someone who may be emotionally traumatized by the experience.

People who have experienced a bite should understand the legal protection afforded to them. Pet owners should also understand their responsibility in the event that an attack occurs.

Who is responsible for a dog bite?

There are several circumstances that must exist in order for the owner of the animal to be held responsible for the damages that the bite caused. The law states that liability exists under the following conditions:

  • The dog has bitten or caused injuries to the victim.
  • The victim did not provoke the dog in some way.
  • The attack happened in a place where the victim was legally permitted to be.

In other words, if someone trespasses on private property where the animal lives and is attacked, he or she may not have the right to bring a claim against the owner.

Does homeowners' insurance cover dog bites?

In many cases, yes, it does. As the Insurance Information Institute points out, in the year 2015, there were more than $570 million in homeowners' insurance claims paid out for dog-related injuries. In Oklahoma, if a dog has been deemed dangerous, the owner must carry at least $50,000 in liability insurance, often through the homeowners' policy.

It should be noted, however, that some insurance policies will refuse to cover certain breeds of dogs. Also, providers may try to shortchange a victim on the benefits to which he or she is entitled, or the damages may exceed the policy limits. Under these circumstances, it may be necessary to take additional legal action, such as filing a lawsuit.

Do I need to prove negligence in my claim?

Not in cities or urban areas. Oklahoma abides by a strict liability doctrine for dog bite liability in more heavily populated areas. Therefore, in those places, even when the owner did not commit negligence, he or she will still be held responsible for the damages that the victim incurs.

In rural areas, by contrast, a dog bite victim must show that the owner was negligent and that the negligence caused the dog attack.

How long do I have to file a claim?

Under the state's statute of limitations, people who have suffered damages due to a dog bite or the survivors of someone who has suffered a fatal attack must file the lawsuit within two years of the incident. The clock starts ticking on the date that the person was attacked. Missing that deadline will likely mean forfeiting the claim.

People wishing to gather more information on this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in Oklahoma.