Vermont Dog Bite Laws

Each year millions of people are bitten by dogs, suffering physical and emotional damage. Because of the high costs of medical bills that can be associated with dog bites, it's crucial that you consult an experienced attorney if you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog. Here at the Law Offices of Van Dorn & Curtiss, we have extensive experience handling dog bite claims and we know the Vermont state laws which apply to these cases. We will fight aggressively to hold the negligent dog owner accountable and help you recover the compensation you deserve after this traumatic attack.

"One-Bite" Rule in Vermont

The state of Vermont does not have a specific dog bite statute and uses past appeals court rulings to determine liability. Vermont uses the “one-bite” rule for dogs, meaning that the dog owner is only liable if they should have reasonably known that the dog was aggressive or if the owner failed to take reasonable care to prevent their dog from hurting someone. Once a dog bites or attempts to bite someone, the owner is then on watch that their dog is aggressive and may be liable the next time their dog bites someone.

Other aggressive acts by the dog beyond biting may also put an owner on notice and cause liability for the first bite, including:

  • Threatening people
  • Jumping on people
  • Chasing or frightening others
  • Previous complaints
  • Fight training

If any of these conditions apply to the dog, the owner may be liable for all damages caused by the bite. For all personal injury cases in Vermont, including dog bites, the statute of limitations is three years. Any claims resulting from a dog bite must be filed within that time, otherwise the court will most likely refuse to hear the case.

Comparative Fault in Dog Bite Cases

Vermont applies a "modified" comparative fault rule which reduces a dog bite victim's damages by an amount equal to their share of the blame for the attack. For example, if a person were to be attacked by a dog as a result of ignoring clearly posted "Beware of Dog" signs, a jury may choose to assign 40% of the blame to the victim and the remaining 60% of the blame to the dog owner. If the victim's damages totaled $10,000, they would only be eligible to receive $6,000 (or $10,000 less 40%). If a victim is found to be 50% or more at fault for their own injuries, the dog owner will not be held liable for any amount of damages.

Responsible Practices for Dog Owners

If you are a dog owner, it is important to take necessary steps to protect others from serious injury from your dog and our prevention measures can help avoid serious injury to others:

  • Keep your dog on a leash when outside
  • Train and socialize your dog to interact with people
  • Keep immunizations up to date
  • Don’t encourage aggressive behavior with rough games (wrestling/tug of war)
  • Spaying and neutering your dog reduces the likelihood of biting
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