To be held liable, the owners or keepers of a domesticated animal must have known or had cause to know that the animal was excessively dangerous.
So, if a cat is normally quiet and suddenly and unexpectedly inflicts harm, its owner or keeper is unlikely to be held accountable to the injured party. However, if the cat owner was aware that the cat was typically hostile, the owner might be held accountable.
Most states have regulations that govern how culpability is decided when an animal injures someone. In general, three liability theories can be utilized in these types of cases:
Many states consider dog owners solely responsible for dog bites. In strict liability states, dog owners are considered completely liable for dog-related injuries, and the victim of a bite does not need to demonstrate any level of blame or carelessness. There are no cat bite laws that hold cat owners strictly liable for cat bites.
What Are a Cat Owner’s Responsibilities?
The owner or keeper of a cat has a responsibility to understand its typical routines and inclinations and must recognize that even normally mild creatures can be harmful. Under some conditions, the owner must take reasonable precautions to avoid foreseeable harm.
Many states, including California, have strict liability rules that handle dog attacks very differently than they do cat and other animal assaults.
The United States, like nearly every other country on the planet, has long understood that, while dogs are adored companions, they also constitute a distinct threat.
Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the 1990s discovered that 4.7 million Americans were bitten by dogs in 1994, that almost 370,000 individuals were treated in hospitals for dog bite injuries in 2001, and that about 2% of those treated for dog bites are hospitalized.
Between 2005 and 2017, 433 humans were killed in dog attacks in the United States, an average of 33 each year.
This is why California and many other states have “strict liability” rules that only apply to dogs and no other animals. Dogs are considered intrinsically hazardous creatures under such rules and hence do not receive a “free bite.” Regardless of whether the owner of a dangerous dog is aware of it prior to the attack, they are liable, presuming the victim was not otherwise at fault.
Cats, on the other hand, are not like this.
While cat bites are exceedingly prevalent and can result in serious, expensive health repercussions, liability regulations for cat bites are less stringent than those for dog bites.
Every year, around 400,000 people in the United States are bitten by cats. Infection occurs in almost half of such bites, compared to 10% of dog bites.
An infected cat bite might have major medical repercussions. Bacteria are abundant in cat saliva, the most dangerous of which may be Pasteurella multocida, a bacteria that causes cellulitis.
Cat bites frequently produce swelling and painful illnesses that can spread to neighboring tissues or even cause blood poisoning.
Cat bites are especially deadly for the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.
According to a 2014 Mayo Clinic study, around one-third of those who sought medical assistance for a cat bite on the hand were eventually hospitalized for an average of little over three days.
What Is Abnormally Dangerous Behavior for a Cat?
Domestic cats are often considered harmless and docile by courts. However, risky behavior can include both mischievousness or playfulness and viciousness.
Courts have determined that a cat’s proclivity to damage a human established an indication of dangerousness where the cat has previously attacked or attempted to attack a person without provocation.
Cat bites differ significantly from dog bites in various respects. Cat bites and scrapes can occur even from the kindest and gentlest cats.
Cats have razor-sharp claws and teeth, and a scratch or bite from a rambunctious or playful cat is not uncommon. That doesn’t change the fact that cat bites are exceedingly hazardous. Cats’ needle-like teeth inject bacteria from their saliva deep into tissue, causing illnesses.
The fundamental differences between cat and dog bites will have a direct influence on an owner’s legal liability for damage.
Cat attacks are less common than dog assaults, maybe due to the different nature of cat-human contact. Cats are less territorial than dogs, yet they are more prone to bite when handled by an unexpected person.
In addition, unlike dogs, cats are frequently allowed to wander freely outside. Allowing a cat to roam freely does not always constitute careless behavior on the part of the owner.
Does a Cat Scratch or a Bite Always Equate to Dangerous Behavior?
Cat biting and scratching when provoked is not considered harmful behavior by courts, regardless of whether the cat is playing or terrified and reacting naturally.
Courts have also generally found in cat scratch or bite lawsuits that a cat owner is not liable for damage caused by a cat to a provoking dog, even if the cat owner was aware of the cat’s history of attacking other animals.
What Are Some Instances Where the Owner May Be Liable For Injuries Inflicted By a Cat?
A cat owner may be held accountable for the harm caused by the cat. Previous courts have addressed the following settings:
- Store owners who knew their cat was aggressive were responsible for maintaining a safe business environment.
- The owner was aware of the cat’s violent propensity and allowed it to roam freely, culminating in the cat scratching someone on their property.
- When the cat attacked a dog without provocation and harmed the dog owner in the process.
Some states use the “one bite rule” when it comes to animal attacks.
It is possible to sue a cat owner under this law if they have reason to know about the animal’s harmful proclivities. The fundamental notion is that an animal will be permitted one “free” bite before the owner is put on notice for the animal’s aggressive temperament and held liable for any injury.
If no additional statutes apply to your case, you can file a cat bite claim using a general negligence theory. In this type of case, you would need to prove that the responsible party breached a duty of reasonable care and that this breach resulted in the cat bite harm.
If your cat causes harm to another person, you may have several affirmative defenses to culpability in a personal injury claim.
One such defense is that the victim “assumed the risk” of being wounded. When the injured person was aware of the possibility of a cat bite, freely assumed that risk, and a bite occurred, this defense may be viable. In this case, the law states that the wounded individual cannot hold you accountable for their injuries.
Another possible argument is that the injured individual was careless and hence partially liable for their own injury.
Everyone has a responsibility to act in a reasonable manner. If you acted in an unreasonable manner and a cat injured you, the law may decide that you contributed to the circumstance owing to your own negligence. In a personal injury claim, this could diminish your recovery.
Should I Seek an Attorney If a Cat Has Attacked Me?
The cat’s owner could be held accountable for your injuries. An animal attack lawyer will work hard to get you compensation for your losses.
Working with an attorney will assist you in understanding your legal rights.