Pets add a lot of joy to our lives, but an uncontrolled dog can be dangerous. In fact, dog bites are responsible for thousands of emergency room visits every year, and canine attacks are sometimes fatal. Although people do not want to believe their beloved pets are capable of harming someone, any dog might cause injury in some circumstances.

Whether you are a dog owner or the victim of an attack, it is important to be aware of dog bite liability in Memphis. The laws are complex, but a local attorney can explain them. Although owners are often liable for the damage their animals cause, sometimes they are not.

When you or your child suffers a bite from another person’s dog, or if your animal bit someone, consult the Law Office of David E. Gordon immediately.

Owners Must Control Their Dogs in Public Places

An owner is strictly liable for the harm their dog causes if the animal is on someone else’s property without their permission. In Memphis, all dogs must be leashed when outside their homes. Tennessee Code Annotated § 44-8-413 makes owners strictly liable if the dog is not completely under their control or is running loose. Strict liability means an injured person does not need to prove the dog’s owner was negligent for the court to award compensation.

The law defines the owner as a person who customarily houses or handles the dog. It is not necessary that the dog bite someone; an owner can be liable for any injury their pet causes. The canine does not need to be attacking either–if the animal jumps on someone in greeting and knocks them over, an owner may be responsible for any subsequent injuries and losses.

In addition, the law contains several important exceptions. The owner might not be liable if the dog is a police or service animal, if the alleged victim provoked the canine, if the dog was securely confined at the time of the injury, or if the injuries occurred on property owned or occupied by the dog’s owner. A local Memphis injury attorney can review a specific dog attack case and advise whether strict liability might apply.

Injuries Sustained on a Dog Owner’s Property

The law imposing strict liability on a dog’s owner does not apply if the animal was on property belonging to or occupied by its owner when the attack occurred. A person who seeks compensation for injuries the dog caused must prove either that the owner knew the dog was dangerous or did not take reasonable steps to prevent harm to them.

One Bite Rule

The owner has a duty to protect someone from a dog if they know that the animal has vicious tendencies, is territorial, or is overly protective. This is often called the “one bite rule,” but that is a misnomer. If the owner knew or should have known that the dog was aggressive, they can be held liable, even if the dog has never bitten anyone.


When someone enters property with permission, the owner of the property owes them a duty of care and must take reasonable steps to ensure the visitor’s safety. If there is a dog on the property, the owner is responsible for preventing the dog from harming anyone.

The extent of the owner’s duty to protect a visitor from a dog depends on the factual circumstances. Memphis attorney David E. Gordon can advise an owner or injured party about the merits and liability of a specific dog bite case.

Possible Compensation in Dog Bite Claims

A dog owner can be responsible for substantial monetary compensation if an injured person proves liability. The damages awarded should make an injured person whole, meaning that they are in the same financial position they would be in if the accident never happened. Damages cover the injured person’s present losses and those they can reasonably expect to experience in the future.

A severe bite may require significant medical intervention, including surgical repair, skin grafts, cosmetic surgery, and even amputation. Infection is always a risk and can lead to complications such as organ failure. In addition, the psychological impact of an animal attack is often devastating and can require mental health treatment. Compensation should cover all these losses, as well as the injured person’s loss of income during their recovery.

The dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy should pay for the victim’s losses. For more guidance on Memphis dog bite liability and potential compensation, consult David E. Gordon as soon as possible.

Work with a Memphis Attorney for Help Establishing Dog Bite Liability

Some states have clear-cut statutory policies regarding the injuries dogs inflict, but Tennessee’s laws are fact-specific. To understand your legal position in a specific circumstance, you need help from a knowledgeable attorney.

When you have questions about dog bite liability in Memphis, contact the Law Office of David E. Gordon immediately. Our local legal professionals are ready to discuss your situation.

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon

The Law Offices of David E. Gordon