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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Can My Dog Bite Someone to Protect Me? | Furry Guardian or Legal Liability?

Dog bites can lead to serious injuries and life-threatening conditions, especially if the animal is not vaccinated. In such situations, the victim may incur medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. Whether or not the affected party has the right to financial recovery depends on many different factors, including the location of the incident, self-defense act, and negligence.


Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys have a deep understanding of the complex dog bite laws in Tennessee. They've helped protect the rights of dog bite victims and have recovered over $1 billion in compensatory damages for their clients. They can answer questions like What is the one bite rule in Tennessee?


Injured victims in Nashville, Tennessee, should reach out to the experienced Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys for legal representation. They can help assess the dog bite case, protect the rights of the affected party and answer questions such as How do you defend a dog bite case?


Understanding Tennessee Dog Bite Laws

Understanding Tennessee Dog Bite Laws


Navigating dog bite claims or lawsuits in Tennessee can be challenging, as there are many different laws that address liability in such cases. These include the following:


Tennessee Dog Bite Statute: Dianna Acklen Act of 2007

The Dianna Acklen Act of 2007 is an amendment to the dog bite statute in Tennessee. It took place after three vicious dogs tore a Tennessee resident, Dianna Acklen, apart during her routine morning walk.


Under T.C.A. sec. 44-8-413, the law establishes strict liability for injuries arising from canine bites under one or both of the following circumstances:


  • The owner fails to keep the canine under reasonable control; and

  • The dog was running at large.

There are two exceptions to the Tennessee Dog Bite Statute, and these are as follows:

  • There is no liability if the dog is a military canine on duty or if it is protecting someone from harm; and

  • If the victim provokes the dog.


Another thing that injured victims should note is the "residential exclusion" to the Tennessee dog bite statute. Those injured in a dog attack on someone else's non-commercial property or farm might not be able to recover compensation for the damages caused if they cannot prove "scienter."


Since 50% of the dog bites occur on the dog owner's property, the residential exclusion is a major legal loophole that protects the insurance companies and leaves over half of the otherwise qualified victims without compensation.


Under the Tennessee Dog Bite Statute, a guest who suffers serious dog bite injuries on the dog owner's property may be unable to pursue legal action. On the other hand, a complete stranger has the right to financial recovery in the event of a canine attack outside the house.


Tennessee One Bite Rule

The Tennessee one-bite rule allows the injured person to pursue legal action for the damages caused by one's dog under the "scienter" cause of action.


In the Missio v. Williams case, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the injured dog bite victims can recover compensation if they can prove the following three elements:


  • The defendant owned the canine;

  • The plaintiff suffered injuries due to the dog attack; and

  • The defendant knew or should've been aware of their pet's vicious propensities.

Negligence and Dog Bites in Tennessee

Another way for the injured dog bite victims to recover compensation is to pursue a negligence claim against the dog's owner. The law requires the claimant or plaintiff to prove negligence or failure to control the canine.


In the Mayes v. LaMonte case, the court concluded that the suit is governed by the general principles of negligence and not the law that imposes liability if injuries arise due to the dog's vicious tendencies.


When pursuing negligence claims against the dog owners, the injured victims do not have to prove that the defendant was aware or should've been aware of their dog's vicious propensities.


In the McAbee v. Daniel case, the court provided guidelines for a dog bite victim to recover compensation by filing a negligence claim. These include the following:


  • The dog owner was negligent in controlling their pet, resulting in injuries to the other party.

  • Dog owners must take notice of their pets' dangerous propensities and take the necessary measures.

  • An individual has the right to keep a dog as long as they restrain the canine to prevent endangering other people.

  • Dog owners must take reasonable steps to guard others from their canines and prevent any injuries from occurring.


It's important to note that the negligence claim is invalid if a dog bites a person on the dog owner's property. In such situations, the one-bite rule may apply, and the victim must prove the three essential elements to obtain compensatory damages.


Municipality Laws


The dog bite laws may vary from one municipality to the other. The City of Memphis Ordinance § 5-60, for example, states that a dog owner must keep their pets on a leash or fence their property to prevent the animal from harming other people.


With so many different laws, navigating a dog bite claim can be challenging. It's essential for the dog bite victim to work with an experienced attorney to help assess the facts surrounding the case and guide the affected party on their legal options.


Can an Individual Attack a Dog in Self-defense in Tennessee?


Generally, a person can kill a dog without any legal repercussions if the dog is attacking the individual or someone else, and there is no other alternative to killing the canine.


There are four conditions that must exist for a person to kill a dog in self-defense, and these are as follows:


  • The dog is attacking a person and not an animal (with the exception of farm animals);

  • The attack is capable of inflicting great bodily harm or death;

  • The person is facing an immediate threat; and

  • There is no other alternative to killing the dog.


If the above-mentioned conditions exist, a person may be able to kill the dog in self-defense in Tennessee. However, the method of killing the animal must be lawful and humane, as otherwise, it could lead to criminal charges.


In the past, there have been many cases where a dog bit an individual, and in self-defense, the person shot the animal, resulting in criminal charges (animal cruelty, discharge of a firearm within city limits, and possession of a concealed weapon, among others).


Combat with a dangerous dog could lead to injuries and even death. It's important to understand that until the dog bite statutes in Tennessee change, killing an animal should be a last-ditch self-defense attempt.


Can My Dog Bite Someone to Protect Me?


In any situation that calls for self-defense, the response of the dog's owner needs to be reasonable. It must be proportional to the threat.


Suppose a ten-year-old child stops a dog owner and demands their wallet. Should the person order their canine to attack the minor?


In most states, including Tennessee, a dog owner does not have the right to order their pet to bite the kid in self-defense, as the deadly force exerted by the animal is not reasonable or proportional to the threat.


If the threat the pet owner faces is much greater than the aggressive dog they own (an armed robber or dangerous trespasser), they may have the right to order their canine to attack as a form of self-defense.


The amount of force allowed depends on whether the pet owner is protecting themselves or their property. Deadly force is not reasonable when it comes to protecting one's property.


On the other hand, a person can use the same level of force (reasonable and proportional to the threat) to protect themselves or others around them.


Another important thing to remember is that Tennessee follows the "stand your ground" rule, which requires an individual to use deadly force when necessary in order to protect their life.


Suppose a carjacker is breaking into a person's car while they're at a store. In such situations, the car owner may not use deadly force to harm the carjacker, as their life is not in danger.


However, if they were inside the car while the robber tried to break in, they could use deadly force to protect themselves. The self-defense and dog laws in Tennessee can be complex to understand.


In self-defense, a dog owner may order their canine to attack if their life is in imminent danger. It's crucial for the affected party to reach out to an experienced dog bite attorney, as skilled dog bite lawyers in Nashville TN can protect their legal rights.


Does the Insurance Company Pay for the Expenses Arising from Dog Bites?


A pet owner may have a homeowner's policy that typically covers the damages arising from the actions of their own dog. However, insurance companies are starting to exclude dangerous dog breeds, which is why it's essential to get specialty coverage to protect oneself financially.


In the event of self-defense, if the dog hurts another person to protect its owner from an imminent threat, the injured victim may not have the right to a financial recovery.


An experienced dog bite attorney can help determine the applicable insurance policies and file a claim against the dog owner's insurance company to recover compensation.


Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Can Help Pet Owners Against Liability!

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Can Help Pet Owners Against Liability!


Those who are looking for legal representation for dog bite cases in Nashville, Tennessee, should call to schedule a free consultation with the experienced Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys.


Whether it's the pet owners who are facing liability due to self-defense or dog bite victims who have suffered serious injuries, Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can help the affected parties and protect their rights.

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