Cat Bite Lawsuit Basics

Family pets bring an incredible amount of joy. However, no matter how much they can feel like members of the family, dogs and cats are still animals and interacting with them can sometimes lead to injuries. Read on to learn more about the basics of a cat bite lawsuit.

The Nature of Cat Attacks

Cat bites differ from dog bites in several significant ways. Bites or scratches from cats sometimes occur even from the friendliest and gentlest cats. Cats have extremely sharp claws and teeth, and it's not uncommon to get a scratch or bite from a frisky or playful cat. However, that doesn't change the fact that cat bites can be extremely dangerous. Cats' needle-like teeth inject bacteria in the cat's saliva deep into tissue, which frequently leads to infections.

Fundamental differences between cat bites and dog bites will directly impact an owner's legal responsibility for injuries. Cat attacks are not as frequent as dog attacks, perhaps due to the different nature of interaction between cats and humans. Cats are typically less territorial than dogs, but a cat bite is more likely to result when a cat is handled by an unfamiliar person. Also, unlike dogs, it's not uncommon for cats to be allowed to roam free outside. Allowing a cat free reign wouldn't necessarily constitute negligent behavior on the part of the owner.

Theories of Liability for Cat Bites

Most states have laws that dictate how liability is determined when an animal causes an injury. Generally, there are three theories of liability that can be applied in these sorts of cases:

  1. Strict liability
  2. "One bite rule"
  3. Negligence

Many states choose to hold an owner strictly liable for dog bites. In strict liability states, dog owners are held absolutely responsible for injuries caused by a dog, and the victim of a bite need not establish any level of fault or negligence. However, there are no state laws holding cat owners strictly liable for cat bites.

Some states adhere to the "one bite rule" of animal attacks. Under this rule, a pet owner is liable if he or she had reason to know of that animal's dangerous propensities. The general idea is that an animal will be allowed only one "free" bite, after which an owner is on notice for the animal's aggressive temperament and will be held liable for any injuries.

If no other statutes apply to your situation, you can proceed with a cat bite lawsuit under a general negligence theory. In this sort of case, you would need to establish that the responsible party breached a duty of reasonable care, and this breach caused the cat bite injury to occur.

Defenses Against a Cat Bite Lawsuit

If your cat has injured someone else, you may have various affirmative defenses to liability in a personal injury lawsuit. One such defense is that the injured person "assumed the risk" of injury. This defense may be available when the injured person was aware of the risk of a cat bite, voluntarily assumed that risk, and a bite actually occurred. In this situation, the law provides that the injured person can't turn around and hold you liable for the injuries.

Another potential defense is that the injured person was contributorily negligent, and thus partially responsible for his or her own injury. Everyone has a duty to act as a reasonable person. If you acted in an unreasonable way, and this resulted in an injury from a cat, the law may find that you contributed to the situation due to your own negligence. This might reduce your recovery in a personal injury lawsuit.

Get Legal Help with Your Cat Bite Injury

If you have been injured by a cat bite, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. All lawsuits have statutes of limitations, so you may want to consider getting legal advice to understand your rights and options. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today for your free case evaluation.

Next Steps

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