August 24, 2023

By:  Shane C. Sidebottom

Dogs and children will interact, and sometimes, a dog provoked or unprovoked, will bite. Dog bites can inflict serious injury, and it is not uncommon that one bitten by a dog will suffer scarring, both physical and emotional.

What is the law in Kentucky?

Kentucky law has statutorily mandated, strict liability for dog owners whose dog is found to have caused damage to a person, livestock, or other property, but the courts have long recognized exceptions to this liability.[1]  Trespassing can limit any liability.  If a dog bite is to occur when an individual is trespassing, then the trespasser generally cannot recover.  One who keeps a dog on his own premises will not be liable to a trespasser whose presence and exposure to the dog was unknown to the dog’s owner.[2] However, if the trespasser’s presence is known to the dog’s owner, or within his reasonable expectation, it is the owner’s statutory duty to prevent the parties on the property from being harmed by a dog.  Therefore, every dog bite incident needs to be examined upon its own unique facts to determine if there is liability for the dog bite.

How do you estimate compensation for a dog bite?

It is common for victims of a dog bite to be awarded damages for their medical expenses and their pain and suffering that resulted from the dog bite.  In determining how damages are assessed, while the dog owner is generally strictly liable for their dog’s actions, courts will apply a comparative fault analysis to issuing a final damage award.  Thus, if a victim’s own negligent or intentional acts contributed to the dog’s attack then damages may be reduced because the nature of both parties’ conduct will be considered when assessing the causal relation between the conduct and the damage.  For example, if a dog bite victim is pulling the tail of a dog which results in a bite, a jury can consider how much fault the victim contributed to the dog biting the victim, and exercise their judgment to reduce the dollar amount of damages awarded.

There are special rules for settlements of dog bite cases for juveniles.

When a child (a minor under the age of 18) is bitten by a dog and receives a settlement, the law in Kentucky requires a court to approve the settlement.  The parent or guardian of the minor will need to seek court approval to be appointed as the fiduciary over the child’s settlement money until the child reaches the age of adulthood.  Kentucky law requires that the settlement money for a child must be placed into an annuity or a restricted bank account that will be overseen by the court.  Settlement money does not belong to the parents or the extended family, and early withdrawal of money for the benefit of the child victim requires court approval.

[1] KRS 258.235(4); Maupin v. Tankersley, 540 S.W.3d 357 (Ky. 2018) (Citing See, e.g., Johnson v. Brown, 450 S.W.2d 495 (Ky. 1970); Dykes v. Alexander, 411 S.W.2d 47 (Ky. 1967); Wooldridge v. White, 105 Ky. 247, 48 S.W. 1081, 20 Ky. L. Rptr. 1144 (1899)).

[2] May v. Holzknecht, 320 S.W.3d 123 (Ky. Ct. App. 2010).

This Blog is not legal advice and is not intended to be legal advice.  Should you have any questions regarding the subject matter, please contact Shane C. Sidebottom, Esq., at Ziegler & Schneider, P.S.C., (859) 426-1300 (main), for additional information.

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