The textbook definition of a provoked bite varies greatly from state to state. Some states consider provocation any behavior that spurred the attack even if the victim had had no intention to interact with the animal prior to the attack. Some of the most commonplace accidents are stepping on a dog’s tail.

Other states, on the other hand, need the victim’s behavior to be blatantly provocative, such as hitting or kicking the dog repeatedly, for the dog owner or their insurance carrier to use provocation as defense.

How courts view provocation also depends on the dog bite rules in each state. If the state allows you to hold the dog owner liable for your injuries under strict liability laws, provocation is more likely to be used as a defense by the dog owner to escape liability. Under strict liability rules, the victim doesn’t have to prove that the dog owner is liable for the attack. The victims need only to prove the dog bite, the dog owner, and the extent of the injuries or of other damages.

Any dog bite attorney worth their salt will tell you that provocation and amount of compensation you may be eligible to collect are case specific.

In most states, obvious behaviors that would stir up aggression in any dog are considered provocations. These actions include:

·         Kicking or hitting the dog repeatedly, out of the blue

·         Beating the dog

·         Invading the animal’s personal space

·         Intentionally startling the dog

·         Intentionally interrupting an activity the dog was engaged in

·         Taunting or teasing a dog

·         Intentionally stepping on a dog.

If I Provoked the Dog Can I Still Get Compensation?

If you provoked the dog that bit you, you might be eligible to reduced compensation or to no compensation at all, depending on each state’s shared fault rules. There are two major systems of shared fault, or shared negligence, in the United States:

·         Comparative negligence: The victim receives reduced compensation or no compensation at all if his or her share of fault for the dog bite passed a certain threshold.

·         Contributory negligence: The victim cannot recover any damages at all if he or she was responsible for the dog attack even by a tiny bit.

Comparative negligence states use one of the following systems when assessing the amount of compensation in a shared fault situation:

·         Pure comparative negligence (applicable in most states, including Florida, Alaska, and California): The compensation for a dog bite injury will get low by the share of the victim’s fault in percentage points. For instance, if the victim is 20% at fault for the incident, his or compensation of, let’s say, $10,000 for medical bills and income losses will be reduced by $2,000 (20%) to $8,000.

·         Modified comparative negligence (applicable in Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota, Kansas, South Carolina, Arkansas, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Maine, Tennessee, and West Virginia): The dog bite victim is not eligible to any compensation if he or she was more than 50% at fault for the dog attack.

These rules apply only if the dog owner or his or her insurance carrier claims that the victim was partially at fault for the dog bite and the judge or jury finds out that the owner was right. In other cases, one bite rules or strict liability dog bite laws may apply, which also vary (greatly) from state to state.

In one-bite states, the dog owner cannot be held legally responsible if the dog is at its first offense. A history of aggressive behavior is hard to demonstrate, especially if previous attacks weren’t previously reported to authorities.

Under strict liability rules, the dog owner can be held liable for the attack even when he or she had no knowledge of the dog’s past aggressive behavior.


What lawmakers and courts may see as “provoked dog bite” vary from one state to another depending on that state’s dog bite rules and case law. Also, the amount of compensation you are due in a provoked dog bite case is always case specific. Dog bite rules are a complex area of the law that even professionals find it hard to navigate.

For instance, if the dog owner is successfully arguing that the victim teased the dog before it bit them it can result in a lower settlement amount in some states, while in others, it may result in no settlement at all. That’s why it is always a good idea to talk with a dog bite injury attorney before even considering filing a lawsuit or an insurance claim in such cases.

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