Understanding the Dog Bite Laws in Tennessee

Have you been bitten by someone else’s dangerous pet? If so, it is important to understand your rights. In 2007, Tennessee established strict liability laws for dog-inflicted wounds, including bites and other injuries; however, a dog owner can only be held responsible under very specific circumstances. For this reason, you should discuss your case with a Nashville personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Most dog bite cases are far from black and white, so you will need an aggressive advocate in your corner. Contact our firm today to learn more!

Overview of Tennessee’s Dog Bite Statute – T.C.A. § 44-8-413

In 2006, a 60-year-old woman was killed by three dogs in a residential neighborhood. In response, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, which abolished the “first-bite” rule. Prior to this, dog owners could not be held accountable for the violent actions of their pet unless they were aware that their dog had previously attacked or bitten someone else.

Now that the new law has been passed, dog owners are subject to strict liability, so it wouldn’t matter whether or not the dog displayed violent propensities. According to T.C.A. § 44-8-413, dog owners have a responsibility to keep their pet under reasonable control, and to keep them from running at large. If they fail to uphold this duty, they would be liable for damages.

There are exceptions to the strict liability law, including:

  • The dog was fulfilling its duties for the military or police.
  • The victim trespassed on private, non-residential property.
  • The dog was protecting its owner from being attacked.
  • The dog was securing confined in a kennel or crate.
  • The dog was enticed, disturbed, harassed or provoked.
  • The victim was on the dog owner’s residential property.

What if I was Bitten While Visiting the Dog Owner’s Property?

One of the exceptions to the strict liability dog bite law is that a dog owner would not be liable for an attack that occurs on residential or non-commercial property that they own or lease. More specifically, the court has ruled that “the owner or keeper of the dog is not answerable for injuries done by it when in a place that it had a right to be, unless the dog was in fact vicious.”

If the victim wants to pursue civil damages, they will need to prove “scienter”—which is also known as common law strict liability or the one bite rule. First, they would need to show that the defendant owns the dog, and that this dog caused their injuries. Next, they will need to prove that the owner knew, or should have known, about the dog’s violent tendencies.

Contact Bill Easterly & Associates for a Free Consultation

If you or your child was attacked by someone else’s dog, you should not hesitate to explore your options with a Nashville injury lawyer from Bill Easterly & Associates. With more than 25 years of combined legal experience and a track record of success that includes thousands of satisfied clients, our firm is well-equipped to guide you through the complicated process of seeking compensation. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you don’t pay unless we win your case! Don’t wait to learn more about your rights.

Learn more about your rights by scheduling a free consultation with our firm.