Dog attacks are frightening, gravely serious and increasingly common in the United States. Over 800,000 dog bite victims seek hospital or medical treatment annually, a rise of over 80% in the last twenty years. Data shows that approximately 2 percent of the US population, roughly 4.7 million citizens, will experience a dog bite this year alone. Knowing your rights and options should you find yourself in this grievous situation is vital, as dog bite injury law is complicated and variable dependent upon where you reside.

The vast majority of bites occur within the confines of your own neighborhood. Dogs recognize their yard as territory to protect, so visitors or neighbors who stray too close may find themselves the target of overly aggressive dogs. This in no way diminishes the responsibilities of a dog owner. Indeed, the appalling uptick in dog attack fatalities, especially on small children, has strengthened laws and boosted liability in response.

All 50 states hold the dog owner culpable if the keeper ordered or provoked the animal into an assault, or allowed an attack by a canine previously designated as dangerous. Beyond that basic dictum, a state or other locality may allow a first bite without significant retribution should the dog owner be able to convincingly exhibit a lack of knowledge that the animal was vicious. This does not necessarily give the owner a reprieve from fines or other damages; most states recognize that the owner should be held accountable to some degree for his pet’s hostile actions.

In some states, an owner is deemed automatically liable for any injury whatsoever. And some counties or cities within states have additionally refined or stringent laws governing dog bites, including issues covering how the dog is housed and if humanely treated. Some areas employ an economic damages-only approach while others seek to rank bodily injury by seriousness matrices. Interpretation of these laws is sometimes uncertain, however, and applied inconsistently.

Dog attacks are most commonly a neighbor-on-neighbor offense and require experienced handling. There are law firms that specialize in addressing the myriad statues and rules that govern seeking redress from afflictions suffered from a dog bite. An injured party should consider seeking professional legal advice to help wade the murky waters of dog bite injury law.

Peter Wendt is a writer and researcher living in Austin, Texas. He recommends you check out The Farris law Firm, a St Louis Injury Lawyer and St Louis Personal Injury Attorney.