Dog owners are typically liable for injuries their pets—or animals in their care—inflict on others. So if you are bitten by a dog, you can usually sue the owner for compensation for injuries and losses you sustain as a result. However, this isn't always the case. Sometimes your legal options may be limited or not available at all. Here are two reasons you may be prevented from filing a personal injury lawsuit in a dog bite case.
Workers' Comp is Your Only Remedy
If interactions with dogs are a normal part of your work day, your options for getting paid for your injuries may be limited to workers' compensation. This is a type of no-fault insurance that pays for medical bills and other costs when employees are hurt on the job. Workers' comp will pay these costs most of the time regardless of who caused the accident. The caveat here, though, is employees are prohibited from suing their employers in civil court.
Unfortunately, this means that if you work with dogs and are bitten, you are limited to filing a claim with workers' comp. For instance, if you work at a kennel and are severely injured by a dog that's brought in, you couldn't sue your employer, even if your costs exceeded what workers' compensation was willing to give you.
There is a limited amount of ways around this restriction, though. If your employer intentionally caused your injuries (e.g. provoked a dog to bite you) then you can sue the company directly for compensation. Other ways you can sue in civil court is if your employer unlawfully prevents you from access workers' comp benefits, commits fraud, or doesn't have the insurance at all.
The Person is a Harborer, Not an Owner
Some states recognize there are different types of custodianship when it comes to animals. Owners, of course, are people who legally own the dogs. However, keepers are people who agree to temporarily care for the animals (e.g. pet sitters). Harborers are people who allow stray animals to take shelter on their properties or feed them, though they may not take any steps to officially claim the dogs.
Keepers and harborers can be held liable for injuries caused by dogs under their watch, but this is not true in every area. In Washington, for example, only owners are liable for injuries caused by dogs. If the person is legally considered just a harborer, you may be prevented from suing for damages.
The law can get pretty complex in this area, and there may be some way to interpret them to your benefit and get compensated for injuries. Your best option is to consult with a dog bite attorney from a firm like Law Office of Daniel E Goodman, LLC who can help you strategize to obtain the outcome you want.