Strict Liability of Dog Owners
Delaware’s Dog Bite Statute is beneficial in that it did away with the “one bite free” rule of the common law. With the statute, a dog owner in Delaware faces strict liability for an unprovoked dog bite or attack. The dog owner will be responsible for compensating a person for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the dog bite or attack.
While the law imposes strict liability upon a dog owner for damages caused by a dog, the law does not provide for the recovery of all damages when a pet is attacked by a dog. Many clients are surprised to learn that when their pet is attacked by a dog, they may not be able to recover all of their veterinary expenses.
Pets are Personal Property
Pets in the eyes of the law are personal property, just like your car or your watch is personal property. When there is damage caused to your personal property, the amount of damages a court can award you is no more than the value of your property. The value of your personal property is not measured subjectively. The law does not take into consideration how much value you place in your vet. To the contrary, the legal value of your pet is its fair market value.
Unfortunately, this measure of damages does not translate well when your pet is injured. While you may spend thousands of dollars on veterinary bills for treatment to your cat or dog who is attacked by a dog, since your pet is personal property, you are not legally entitled to recover the full amount of your veterinary bills if the fair market value of your pet is not equally high.
So while Delaware’s Bite Law is an improvement on the common law, it did change how courts value damages when the victim of the dog bite or attack is your own pet.
If you have been a victim of a dog bite or attack, contact me to schedule a free consultation to discuss how you can be compensated for your injuries and damages.