Dog biting a man's leg
When Should You Report A Dog Bite?

With approximately 44 percent of all Tennessee households owning dogs, it’s safe to say we’re a state that loves its furry friends. In fact, according to, this makes Tennessee eighth in the nation for the highest percent of pet owners. But when a dog attacks, the consequences can be horrific. A family’s beloved pet can instantly become a dangerous and deadly animal that is difficult to control.

With 32 years of legal experience, David E. Gordon has the knowledge and skills to handle even the most catastrophic and tragic of dog bite cases. To better understand your rights after an animal attack, contact our law firm today to set up a free consultation. Erectafil


Dog bites are governed by a particular section of the Tennessee Code. Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413, the law provides clear instructions to the public. Dog owners owe others a duty to keep their dog under “reasonable control at all times.” If they fail to do so and the dog hurts someone who is in a public place or who is on private property legally, then the owner is liable for those injuries.

Dangerous propensity is not necessary. In some states, and under old common law rules, there was something known as the “one free bite” rule or “first-bite” rule. This basically said that if the dog had never bitten before or never gave any indication of a dangerous tendency, then there was no liability. Therefore, liability usually would not be implied until the second time the dog attacked. Under current Tennessee law, this is not necessary. The statute says that an owner can be held responsible for injuries “regardless of whether the dog” ever showed signs of being dangerous before.

Exceptions to the law. Not every dog bite gives you the right to bring a claim for your injuries, however, as there are some unique exceptions. Here are the primary exceptions that come up from time to time:

  • The animal was a police or military dog acting in the course of its official duties (in most situations).
  • The victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s nonresidential property.
  • The dog was acting to protect the owner or other innocent party from an assault or other attack.
  • The injury happened while the dog was securely confined (in kennel, cage, or enclosure).
  • The dog was provoked in some way.


You should report your injury to the dog’s owner right away. If the owner is not available, you should tell the person in charge or in control of the dog at the time, and ask for the name and contact information of the dog’s owner.

Next, report a dog bite to the authorities. Depending on exactly where you live, this may mean police, sheriffs’ departments, animal control, or even your local health department.

When you contact our experienced injury attorney, you can get helpful information about the various government agencies that may be able to provide information and resources to help document your case and deal with the aggressive dog.


In almost all cases, the same deadline will apply as for other personal injury claims in Tennessee. You will have just 1 year from the date of the dog bite to bring a lawsuit against the dog’s owner for your injuries.

Failure to take action in that window of time will mean a complete bar to your rights. You will never be entitled to take actions or obtain compensation after that point.


When you are attacked by a dog, there will no doubt be a lot of emotions and adrenaline, but there are key steps to protecting your rights and getting taken care of. Here’s what you should do:

Call 9-1-1.  The first thing you should do is call 9-1-1. Have the police and emergency medical personnel show up. This will ensure that if the dog’s owner is hostile or the dog is still at large, the authorities will be in a position to take control of the animal and investigate the owner. If police do not do so, be sure animal control is contacted. The animal will need to be tested and quarantined for a period of time.

Notify the Owner. You must notify the owner or person in charge of the dog as soon as possible, if at all possible.

Emergency Medical Care. Next, make sure you go directly to the hospital. You need to obtain emergency medical treatment right away. You will also be tested for rabies and other infectious diseases that are common to animals. In addition to making sure you are OK, this will help to prove the nature, extent, and severity of your injuries.

Take Photos of Everything. If possible, get photos of your injuries, the dog, the location where the attack happened, any signs or postings nearby, gates, doors, windows, and anything else you believe might be relevant to demonstrating where and how your attack occurred.

Keep Clothing and Other Items. Do not discard torn, blood-soaked, or dirty clothing, backpacks, purses, or anything else that was worn during the attack. These could be crucial evidence.

Obtain Evidence. In the days following your attack, as you are recovering, you should contact animal control and the police department that responded to your injury. Obtain copies of any incident reports, animal control reports, or other official documents that relate to your injuries.

Contact a Lawyer Right Away. Your next step will be gathering your medical evidence and other important evidence to submit to the dog owner’s insurance carrier. You should make sure you first speak with an experienced Memphis dog bite lawyer before you attempt to resolve an insurance claim on your own.


David E. Gordon is a highly respected personal injury lawyer in Memphis, TN. He is one of fewer than 2 percent of all Tennessee lawyers that are Board Certified by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

If you’ve suffered from a severe dog bite or a loved one has been seriously injured by a careless owner allowing a dog to wander at large, then put decades of experience in your corner. For help with a dog bite case, contact The Law Office of David E. Gordon today.

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon