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Fox Farley Willis & Burnette Attorneys At Law
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Tennessee Dog Bite Laws are More Complex Than You May Think


Our dogs are our best friends, an animal long domesticated to co-exist with humans. But we shouldn’t forget that dogs are animals, and predator animals at that. That means that they can, and do, cause injury to people, whether by biting or other ways. You can recover compensation if you are bitten or injured by a dog, in certain situations.

Strict Liability for Dog Injuries and Bites

Tennessee’s dog bite law is a strict liability law.

That means that you do not have to prove that the owner of the dog did anything careless, negligent, or wrong—the fact that you were bitten, is proof of liability (so long as you can prove that your injuries were caused by the dog bite). You also need not prove that the dog had previously bitten anybody else or that the owner knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities.

There is strict liability for dog bites in Tennessee, if the dog was unleashed or roaming free, or if the owner is unable to fully and properly control the dog.

As you look at that list, you may notice something. None of those apply to dogs that bite someone while they are inside the owner’s (or the dog’s) home. In other words, a dog that is at home, and bites a visitor, is not running free, or considered unleashed. That means that strict liability would not apply.

In these kinds of cases, the victim does have to prove that the owner knew that the dog had dangerous propensities. That can be done by showing that the dog had bitten someone in the past, or that the owner knew that the dog was inclined to bite.

Often, this turns dog bite cases into cases where the victim must do some digging, to see what the owner knew or didn’t know about the dog. This can be difficult, as when a dog snaps at someone, or lunges at someone, but causes no injury, there may never be any kind of report made, or proof that it happened.

Defenses to Bite Cases

Owners of dogs who bite people do have some defenses available to them. It is a defense to a dog bite claim, if the victim was trespassing, or if the victim did anything to provoke the dog to bite or attack. In some cases, there is an argument as to who actually owns the dog, if the dog is being “watched” by a relative or friend, or if the dog is owned by two people (for example, a boyfriend and girlfriend).

Dog Injures That Aren’t Bites

Tennessee’s dog bite laws aren’t actually limited to dog bites—they include any kind of injury that a dog may cause to someone else. That includes “innocent” injuries, such as a dog that runs out into traffic and causes a car accident, or a dog that playfully jumps on someone and knocks them over.

Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today.


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