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Dog Bites: Who is Responsible?


Oklahoma law imposes strict liability on dog owners for any damage caused by a dog that, “without provocation, bites or injures any person” in any place where that person has a lawful right to be. There is actually a lot going on in that sentence when it comes to determining whether the dog’s owner is liable to you for any injuries caused by the dog.

First, there’s the issue of “without provocation.” If you tease, harass, or beat a dog that doesn’t belong to you, and that dog responds in fear or self-defense and bites you, you may have waived your right to sue the owner for damages from any resulting injuries. Of course, this should go without saying: do not tease or hit strange dogs. Do not even play with unknown dogs without the dog’s owner’s permission.

Second, there’s the issue of where you have a lawful right to be. Oklahoma law says that all people have a right to be in any public place, meaning:

  • Public streets
  • Sidewalks
  • Alleyways
  • Easements
  • Buildings
  • Parks
  • Playgrounds
  • Recreational facilities

Further, you have a right to be on private property if you are:

  • Performing a duty imposed by law or postal regulation
  • Reading meters
  • Making repairs to any public utility or service
  • Working on the property at the request of the owner or tenant
  • On the property through invitation, expressed or implied
  • Any other lawful purpose

If you did not provoke the attack and were in a public place or lawfully on private property when the attack occurred, the dog’s owner is liable to you for the cost of treatment of your injuries, as well as pain and suffering. Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who knows Oklahoma dog bite law about your rights.