We live in a society that has elevated the concept of “convenience” higher than ever before. Groceries, food, coffee, and electronics can be ordered and paid for online, and they will be waiting at the curb, counter, or even delivered right to someone’s doorstep.
But with so many deliveries being made, it should not come as a surprise that deliveries to private residences can sometimes involve dog bites. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the rights of delivery drivers who are bitten by dogs during the course of their work.
Dog Bite Risks for Delivery Drivers
Along with children and senior citizens, delivery drivers are particularly susceptible to suffering a dog attack. This is not surprising when one quickly looks at some statistics. Forbes reports that in 2023, 65.1 million households owned at least one dog. That is more than 49 percent of households. Thus, it would be virtually impossible for delivery drivers not to encounter dogs.
Dog Attacks Can Result in Serious Injury
Besides the obvious result that a dog bite can hurt and cause scratches, bleeding, bruising, and the like, there are some cases where a bite might be more severe. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) provides the following statistics which can give cause for concern:
- In the United States, more than 4.5 million people suffer dog bites each year.
- 800,000 people receive medical treatment for dog bites every year in the United States.
And consider these horrific examples. In Illinois, a FedEx driver had to have his hand and wrist amputated after being attacked by two dogs. In Texas, an Amazon driver reported that his calf was bitten off in a dog attack. And especially sadly, a delivery driver was found dead in Missouri. Investigators suspect the death was caused by a dog attack.
Dog Bites And The US Postal Service
The United States Postal Service alone reports that more than 5,300 of its employees suffered dog attacks in 2022 while delivering the mail. Mail carriers, of course, are only one part of the delivery industry. Companies like Fed-Ex, UPS, Amazon, Uber, and others have drivers that are potentially in harm’s way every day.
What Legal Rights Do Delivery Drivers Have?
Fortunately, delivery drivers often have recourse under the law for injuries and other damages caused by a dog attack.
Oregon’s Dog Bite Laws
Many people say that their dogs have ‘one free bite’ – they assume that a dog that doesn’t have a history of biting people is not considered ‘dangerous’ or at risk of biting, and that the first bite ‘doesn’t count’.
The state of Oregon’s dog bite laws are slightly different from other jurisdictions. Oregon Revised Statutes, section 31.360 subdivision 1 goes on to describe: “For the purpose of establishing a claim for economic damages, as defined in ORS 31.710 (Noneconomic damages), in an action arising from an injury caused by a dog: (a) The plaintiff need not prove that the owner of the dog could foresee that the dog would cause the injury; and (b) The owner of the dog may not assert as a defense that the owner could not foresee that the dog would cause the injury.”
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Homeowner’s insurance sometimes provides coverage for injuries caused to third persons, such as delivery drivers, by the owner’s pets. However, the specifics of the case are open to scrutiny here. Apparently, insurers in Oregon paid upwards of $6.9 million to settle 185 dog bite claims back in 2019. Some local governments reported a slight increase in dog bites during the pandemic.
When speaking with an Oregon personal injury dog bite attorney, they will usually examine the ‘declarations’ section of a homeowner’s insurance policy to determine if it is supplemental.
Can A Delivery Driver Sue For A Dog Bite in Oregon?
In Oregon, the law states that an owner should know their dog. If the dog shows signs of possible bite risks, like food aggression, being territorial, aggression around strangers, or a general tendency toward biting and aggressive behavior, they are responsible for preventing the dog from causing harm to someone else.
This is sometimes referred to as ‘liability without fault’ or ‘liability regardless of intent’.
Without investigation and discovery, no clear-cut way to determine if an owner had enough information on their dog to be legally responsible for it – it’s hard to prove in court that an owner knows or does not know something without evidence, such as a previous record of dog bites. The key to proving a strong personal injury case would be to prove that the owner did not act reasonably or appropriately to stop the bite regardless.
In some cases, though, the owner might have gone through every means they can to keep the dog from biting when a delivery driver is around. Even if the dog escapes or resists whatever measures have been taken, the owner may still be considered liable.
There are some unfortunate cases where the owner does know about a dog’s temperament and has done nothing to restrain the dog or otherwise stop the bite from occurring. It comes down to an ability to prove negligence.
Is A Delivery Driver’s Employer Liable?
Worker’s compensation is a slightly tricky field to deal with. Here, a delivery driver is already dealing with a personal injury case, which a worker’s compensation case will usually be independent of. Here is what you need to know about an employers liability in a delivery driver dog bite case:
In Oregon, delivery drivers are required to walk onto private property as a necessary part of their job – legally, this is referred to as ‘implied invitation’.
Therefore, because a delivery driver was legally entering the dog owner’s property as dictated within the scope of their employment when the bite occurred, they’re eligible to submit a worker’s compensation claim in Oregon.
Call with Questions
Postal service workers and delivery drivers work hard and should not have to endure the dangers of dog attacks. When such attacks do occur, dog owners should be held liable for their negligence. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we help Oregon personal injury victims every day. If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, we know the law and are here to answer all of your questions in a free consultation. Contact us today.