Tennessee Dog Bite Laws Are Complex—That's Why We're Here
In Tennessee, dog owners are liable for injuries caused by their animals. The extent of their liability, however, depends on where the interaction between the dog and the victim took place. Most states have either a strict liability or a one-bite rule for dog owners. Tennessee has both rules but applies them in specific situations.
When Strict Liability Applies
Tennessee dog owners have a duty to keep their animals under reasonable control at all times and to prevent them from running at large. If a dog is loose when it attacks a person, the strict liability law applies. This law holds dog owners responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of whether the owner knew or should have known about the dog's dangerous tendencies. This law applies to all types of injuries caused by dog bites or attacks, including physical injuries, emotional trauma, and property damage.
In an example of a strict liability case, Mary is walking her dog on a leash when her neighbor's dog, which has no history of aggressive behavior, jumps over the fence and attacks Mary and her dog, causing injury to both of them. Mary can recover damages from her neighbor under Tennessee's strict liability law because the neighbor failed to keep the animal under control. It does not matter that the dog had never bitten anyone before.
The One-Bite Rule Applies When the Dog Is on Its Own Property
Tennessee also has a one-bite rule, which means that a dog owner is not liable for injuries caused by their dog's first bite or attack unless the owner knew or should have known about the dog's dangerous tendencies. This rule only applies if the victim of the attack is on property belonging to the dog's owner. In other words, if you are visiting someone who has a dog that has never shown aggression before and the dog bites you, the owner is likely not liable for the dog's actions. However, after the first bite or attack, the owner is presumed to have knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities and can be held liable for any subsequent bites or attacks.
For example, John adopts a dog from a shelter and brings it home. The dog has no history of aggressive behavior, but one day, at a barbecue in his backyard, the dog bites a child who tries to pet it. Since this is the first aggressive act that John is aware of, he probably will not be liable for the first bite under Tennessee's one-bite rule, but he may be held liable for any subsequent bites.
Exceptions to Owner Liability Laws
Many dog bite cases come down to a he-said-she-said scenario, and owners have a number of exceptions they can claim to protect themselves from liability. These include:
- The victim was trespassing on the owner's private property.
- The dog was protecting the owner from possible harm.
- The dog was confined in an enclosure.
- The victim teased or provoked the dog.
These defenses will require the dog's owner to produce evidence to prove the claim, and the victim will need a legal representative to counter the evidence.
Pete Provides Compassionate Representation to Dog Bite Victims
Most of the dog bite victims we help are children. Children should not be forced to live with emotional damage and physical scarring without compensation from the human responsible for the harm that was done to them. When you GET PETE! to help with your dog bite injury claim, you will get a knowledgeable, committed legal team who will fight for justice. Fill out our contact form or call 877-GET-PETE right away!