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Tennessee’s “One Bite Rule” Explained

angry dog with bared teeth

The laws regarding liability in dog bite cases vary from state to state. In Nashville, Tennessee, the most pertinent aspect of the law is the so-called One Bite Rule. If you are bitten by a canine, the circumstances under which the bite occurred are of vital importance when taking your case to court – the same goes, of course, if you are the owner of the offending dog.

The First Victim Free?

What, exactly, does the One Bite Rule entail? The rule essentially forgives the dog and owner of a bite or attack on another person; provided that there is no previous history of an attack by that dog. The dog, therefore, is legally “allowed” one bite, and the owner is shielded from prosecution in a civil case.

Essentially, a Nashville dog bite attorney would tell you, the owner of a dog that bites a single person had no reasonable expectation that their domesticated animal was capable of such an act. Only if the dog was to bite or harm another person in a similar manner as the first victim would the owner and canine be rendered liable.

Changes to the One Bite Free Law

In 2006, a 60 year-old woman was attacked and killed by several dogs in a residential neighborhood, which resulted in the passage of a new law amending the One Bite Rule. Tennessee law makers felt that the previous behavior of a dog may not be relevant in determining liability. Owners are responsible for keeping their dogs from roaming free, irrespective of whether the dog has ever bitten anyone before. Essentially, there are two things to keep in mind, concerning the responsibilities of a dog owner:

  • An owner cannot allow his/her dog to run around at large – off their property, or where the dog can reach people
  • Even if off the owner’s property, the dog must be kept under reasonable control

There are certain mitigating circumstances concerning dogs – even after the One Bite Rule was significantly amended. For example, police and military dogs are exempt while performing their prescribed duties. Additionally, if someone is trespassing on your property and bitten, neither you nor your dog is held liable. For more information regarding your rights on either side of the law, contact a Nashville dog bite attorney today.