Dog Bites & Animal Attacks
Deadlines to file Dog Bite/Animal Attack claims in Hawaii
Claims arising out of an animal attack and/or dog bites are generally
subject to a two-year statute of limitations in Hawaii.
It should be noted, however, that there are
exceptions to this rule- for example, claims
against the City and County of Honolulu and
the various other Counties must be filed with the appropriate agency
within six (6) months of the date of the accident.
These claims most frequently arise from an unexpected attack
by a dog on a person—frequently on a child.
You must file your claims in
court prior to the expiration of such deadlines, or your
claims may be lost—regardless of their merit.
To be wise it is recommended that you immediately contact an attorney
after an accident giving rise to injuries occurs- please do not
hesitate to :
Hawaii Personal Injury Attorney now for a free evaluation of your case.
Hawaii law on dog bites and animal attacks
lead case on dog bites in the state of Hawaii is the case
of Farrior v. Payton, 57 Haw. 620, 562 P.2d 779 (1977).
In this case the injured victims brought action against
the three joint owners of a German Shepherd dog to recover
for injuries sustained when, in an attempt to avoid what
was believed to be an imminent attack by the dog, they fell
off a natural rock wall bordering the owners' property.
that case the Hawaii Supreme Court set out the basic considerations
regarding the liability of an owner of an animal for an
attack made by that animal. First, the Court stated that
in an action against an owner or harborer of a dog for injury
inflicted by such animal, the owner/harborer's actual or
constructive knowledge of the "vicious or dangerous
propensities" of the dog is, except where removed by
statute, an essential element of the cause of action and
a necessary prerequisite to recovery.
Court went on to say, however, that the phrase "vicious
or dangerous propensities" means any propensity on
part of dog, which is likely to cause injury under circumstances
in which person controlling the dog placed it, and does
not require only the type of malignancy exhibited by dog
which has already attacked human beings. Such propensities
include a natural fierceness and/or a disposition to mischief
as might lead the animal to attack human beings without
Court went on to clarify that the owner or keeper is bound
to take notice of general propensities of the class to which
his animal belongs (eg. the breed of the dog), and also
of any particular propensities peculiar to animal itself
of which he has knowledge or is put on notice; and, insofar
as such propensities are of a nature likely to cause injury,
the owner must exercise reasonable care to guard against
them and to prevent injuries which are reasonably to be
anticipated from them; in this respect, a vicious or dangerous
disposition or propensity may consist of mere mischievousness
or playfulness of animal, which, because of its size or
nature, might lead to injury, since it is the act of the
animal, rather than its state of mind which charges the
owner or keeper with liability.
respect to the liability of one who harbors a dog or other
animal on there property, the Court stated "A possessor
of land who is in immediate control of a force, and knows
or has reason to know of the presence of trespassers in
dangerous proximity to it, is subject to liability for physical
harm thereby caused to them by his failure to exercise reasonable
care so to control the force as to prevent it from doing
harm to them, or to give a warning which is reasonably adequate
to enable them to protect themselves. An occupier of land
has a duty to use reasonable care for the safety of all
persons reasonably anticipated to be upon the premises,
regardless of the legal status of the individual.
Nationwide concerns and statistics
following article [covering US law in general- as opposed
to Hawaii law] demonstrates the concern that many agencies
have shown toward the alarming amounts of damage caused
by dog bites and animal attacks each year.The US Postal
Service (which says more than 2,500 postal workers were
attacked by dogs last year), the Independent Insurance Agents
of America, Inc., the Humane Society of the United States,
and the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons
have all sought to increase public awareness of the extent
of the damage caused by dog bites each year.
Owners of Dangerous Dogs Getting Bitten By Lawsuits, Insurance
Jacobson thought it was a no-brainer. The Rhode Island independent
insurance agent’s client had taken every precaution
to keep unwitting guests out of the bedroom where her protective
Rottweiler was secluded nursing her litter of new puppies.
But the client’s neighbor sued anyway when the mother
dog bit her after entering the client’s house without
years later, the court ruled in the client’s favor,
but not before her insurance company paid out nearly $40,000
in legal defense costs.
client learned a hard lesson from her ordeal. Owning a dog
is financially risky, even when you take precautions to
protect others. And she is not alone.
and insurance claims resulting from dog attacks are not
unusual, according to many insurance agents and lawyers
and, in fact, represent a growing trend in some areas. "At
this time we’re experiencing a run on dog bite-related
claims in this state," says Jacobson.
reason is the injured now have the law on their side, according
to Mary Randolph, author of the legal guide, Dog Law. "In
the old days, the law gave dog owners what was called ‘one
free bite’. Put simply, an owner wasn’t liable
for injuries unless a dog had already shown it was likely
to hurt someone." But times have changed. "Most
states now make owners liable for any harm their dog causes,
whether or not the owner had reason to suspect that the
dog was dangerous,"
also appears that the number of dog attacks in the U.S.
is on the rise. The National Center for Injury Prevention
and Control reported that the number of dog bites that caused
people to seek medical care increased from 585,000 in 1986
to 800,000 in 1994, a 37 percent increase during a period
in which the dog population rose less than 2 percent. Recent
data appearing in The Journal of the American Medical Association
pegged the number of dog bites at a whopping 4.5 million
of this is bad news to insurers. The New York-based Insurance
Information Institute estimates that an overwhelming one-third
of all homeowners’ liability claims are related to
dog bites, translating to an estimated annual payout of
as much as $1 billion. Those numbers will likely increase
if the number of reported dog attacks and resulting lawsuits
continue on their upward spiral.
say some companies increasingly are responding to this disturbing
trend by passing the cost on to consumers through higher
personal liability insurance premiums or by restricting
coverage altogether for homeowners who have certain types
of dogs - especially those pegged as dangerous breeds, such
as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls and German Shepherds, or those
who demonstrate a history of aggressive behavior.
situation has gotten so bad that "I tell clients that
if you get one of those breeds on the insurance companies’
hit lists, you take a chance of losing your insurance,"
does not criticize the companies’ actions. In fact
he understands the situation all too well. The companies
are under pressure to find a way to cover large losses.
by exorbitant legal fees, many dog bite claims result in
big payouts by insurance companies, Jacobson points out.
"You get bitten, you seek medical attention and the
insurance company will write you a check for $5,000. [Victims]
rarely settle for less in these cases." Additionally,
dog bite victims who are seriously injured often require
expensive reconstructive surgery, pushing the claim’s
price tag up even further.
can consumers protect themselves? Be honest with your agent
and insurance company if you buy a dog, Jacobson suggests.
Most insurance agents and companies routinely ask in their
application forms whether a potential client owns a dog
and can deny coverage if the risk is considered too high,
and many companies send out periodic renewal questionnaires
asking consumers to list their risks and exposures.
Dunkel, an independent agent in State College, Pa., points
out that personal responsibility is the key to avoid being
bitten by a lawsuit or your insurance company. She says
that dog owners too often ignore the risks their pets can
pose to others. "I urge people who want pets that there
are many good training programs that help people gain control
of their dog. The client must exercise some judgment. Bad
owners can be much more dangerous than bad dogs."
remembers a client whose dog became a neighborhood scourge,
biting four or five different times. The woman’s insurance
company bent over backward to accommodate her through the
first few claims, but cancelled her after the last incident
when she failed to take precautions to prevent her dog from
Dunkel was able to locate alternate liability coverage,
the client refused to pay the nearly $2,000 annual premium.
She now has no insurance. "I did everything I could,
but she made it impossible for me to represent her,"
Dunkel recalls with resignation.
without insurance is what some agents fear consumers will
do if they feel they are at risk. "Homeowners and renters
who own dogs should never go without liability insurance
(which is part of most standard homeowners or renters policies)
or they may be in for a rude awakening if sued," says
Madelyn Flannagan, research and information director with
the Independent Insurance Agents of America. "Without
insurance, victims and their lawyers will go after your
personal assets. For most that can be financially devastating."
said that home-based business owners and renters are at
particular financial risk when their dogs bite because they
often are not aware they lack the proper liability coverage.
homeowners policies exclude coverage for business-related
losses, an in-home entrepreneur without business insurance
may not be covered if sued by a customer who was bitten
by the entrepreneur’s family dog," she cautions.
"Renters are also subject to higher risk because many
people who rent are still uninsured for personal property
losses and liability claims. Some mistakenly believe that
their landlord’s insurance will cover their losses."
suggests that those who own dogs of certain breeds, such
as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, or those with dogs that have
demonstrated aggressive tendencies purchase an umbrella
liability policy which provides increased coverage in case
of an attack. But, Flannagan cautions, others should be
careful as well. All dog owners should be cautious around
children. "Although most dogs are good natured and
well-behaved, every dog has the capacity to bite, and children
are most often the victims," she says.
Leslie Sinclair, a veterinarian and director of The Humane
Society of the United States’ Companion Animal Care
program agrees. "Parents speak with their children
about bike safety, the dangers of drugs and a whole host
of other issues, but dog bites are too often overlooked
as a serious threat. Dog bite prevention lessons are simple
to teach and can prevent an injury that can leave physical
and emotional scars for years."
owners need to be aware of the financial as well as physical
implications of letting dogs roam free and of not taking
precautions to prevent injuries, even at home," says
Flannagan. While many dog owners take precautions when walking
their animals in the park, for instance, dogs don’t
always bite in public places. It is estimated that 60 to
70 percent of dog attacks occur on the owners’ property.
experts point out that leash and muzzle laws vary from state
to state as does owner liability, so consumers should also
be aware of the presence of such statutes and the potential
legal and financial repercussions of disregarding them.
In many cases, a dog doesn’t actually have to bite
someone for the owner to be liable for a victim’s
injury. On the other hand, in some cases, the owner may
not be liable for injuries caused by an animal if the injured
party was negligent, if the animal had no history of aggression
or if the owner posted approved warning signs.
May, 1999, the Independent Insurance Agents of America,
Inc., the Humane Society of the United States, the U.S.
Postal Service (which says more than 2,500 postal workers
were attacked by dogs last year), the American Society of
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons and several other co-sponsors
marked National Dog Bite Prevention Week 1999. The groups
offered the following suggestions to consumers to help reduce
the number of dog bites.
Spay or neuter all dogs. Unaltered animals are three times
more likely to bite.
train and socialize your dog to behave properly around
a veterinarian or animal behaviorist if your dog growls,
nips or bites.
not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for
not pet any dog without letting him see and smell you.
not approach a dog without his owner, especially if the
dog is in a car, behind a fence or on a chain.
Do not run or scream if attacked by a dog. Instead, stand
still with your arms at your side. Don't make eye contact
or speak to the dog. If you are knocked over, curl into
a ball and put your hands over your ears.
not base decisions about how to act around dogs on their
breed. Any kind of dog can bite.