Los Angeles, CA (PressExposure) September 25, 2007 -- A steady increase in the number of accounted dog bite incidents has been noted during the recent years in Hawaii. The number has reached up to more than 1,000 dog bite cases annually. This condition raised the potential of more lawsuits to be filed against citizens who are dog owners. It is noted that in Hawaii, lawsuits involving dog bites have already generated awards of more than $350,000 from out-of-court settlements.
In the national level, records show that dogs have bitten a total of 4.7 million or more people. From this number, a dozen were killed from the dog rabies and around 800,000 have sought medical attention every year. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Particularly in Hawaii, there were 1,179 people who were treated in the previous year, a number which showed an increase from the 966 people last 2003. The state's Department of Health reported this apparent increase.
During the past sixteen years, three people have been killed due to a dog bite.
During a recent survey by the Hawaiian Humane Society, in Oahu, about 225,000 dogs abound, which may be a huge factor that most cases of dog bites in the state occur in this area. However, the rate of dog bites occurring among residents is much higher on the Big Island and Kaua'i. This was taken from statistics as compiled by Dan Galanis, an epidemiologist of the state's Department of Health.
The judiciary has not segregated the dog bite lawsuits. This may account for the difficulty in determining the percentage of dog bite lawsuits among the 653 suits that involves non motor vehicle persona injuries filed during the last fiscal year at the Circuit Court.
A rough estimate was given by Robert Kawamura, a lawyer from Honolulu with significant experience in representing dog bite victims and dog owners, declaring that dog bite cases account to about 3 percent of all the cases in personal injury.
There are differences among the states in the handling of dog bite lawsuits.
In a 1986 landmark court decision, the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals rejected the "one-free-bite" rule, which is being implemented in about 18 states in the country. It also rejected the rule imposing strict liability for the dog owners. This means that the dog owner will always be held liable for any bites made by his or her dog. This concept was rejected because the owner may not be held responsible in case his or her dog bites a trespasser.
The court also noted that although a strict liability is imposed for owners of animals that are known by their nature or species to be dangerous, dogs are not included in such category since the court maintained, "Dogs are not wild, dangerous or vicious by their species or nature."
The court also ruled that the dog bite victim does not need to show that the owner knew of his or her dog was vicious. This decision aims to determine whether there was negligence on the part of the dog owner in preventing or controlling his or her dog from biting unsuspecting people.