There are many different scenarios in which a dog may bite someone on another person’s property, and they all have different legal implications. Dogs can bite for many different reasons, explains a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles (https://aa-llp.com/). While you may do your best to prevent someone from being bitten by a dog while on your land, sometimes things don’t go as planned.
There are 4.7 million dog bites every year in the United States, after all, as reported by CanineJournal.com. And many of these bites are serious; about a thousand Americans a day require emergency care for injuries sustained from a dog bite, according to DogsBite.org.
The big question you’ll be asking yourself if this happens is “Am I at fault?” Legally, that question can be complicated to answer, but we can give you a rundown of some of the various factors you need to understand in order to know what happens next.
What is Premises Liability?
Before we jump into different terms, we’d like to remind you that laws vary by location—state and other regional jurisdictions may have specific laws that affect your situation in different ways. It’s always a good idea to retain the services of a lawyer who practices law in the area to handle your dog bite case, because of this.
Premises liability refers to the standard of care that someone on your property should expect you to uphold. For example, people visiting you have a reasonable expectation that they will not be injured during their visit.
This expectation covers a number of different things, including keeping potentially dangerous dogs away from people on your property or warning them about dangerous animals.
Does it Matter Why the Person is There?
Yes, although the extent to which it matters will vary according to state. If your guest is an invited guest, lawfully on your property, then they are entitled to the expectation that they will not be hurt while on your property.
If someone is bitten by a dog on your property, and they can prove that your negligence was to blame, either for failing to restrain the dog or not warning the person that the dog was dangerous, you will probably end up liable for damages.
On the other hand, you may not be liable for damages if the person is trespassing. For example, according to the statutes on FindLaw.com, Florida only holds you liable if the person was on your property lawfully.
You may find it surprising that you might still be liable, depending on what state you are in. Yes, some states will allow someone who is trespassing to sue a property owner for a dog bite. You, or your attorney, will need to check your individual state and city laws to see whether you are liable if the person is on your property unlawfully.
Did You Know Your Dog Was Dangerous?
In most states, whether or not you knew your dog was dangerous is an important factor in whether or not you will be liable for the dog biting someone on your property. If your dog has bitten other people before and you were aware of it, they can be legally classified as dangerous, which opens you up to more liability.
You may be able to offset that liability by putting up signs that warn people of a dangerous dog on the property.
Do You Have Homeowner’s or Renter’s Insurance?
Most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies will cover you if you are sued as a result of a dog biting someone who is on your property. If you don’t have either, you’re more likely to be held personally liable if you lose the suit.
What if the State’s Laws are Unclear?
Some states don’t have clear laws regarding dog bite injury liability. In these states, the courts will look at many different factors to determine who is at fault when it comes to a dog bite injury. Some of the factors that they’ll examine include:
- Why do you have the dog? For example, if it is trained to be a guard dog that should respond aggressively to people it doesn’t know, you should have been aware of how dangerous it might be.
- Does the dog have a history of aggressive behavior? As mentioned above, this will likely come into play no matter where the case takes place.
- Have you muzzled the animal in the past? If you have muzzled the animal under other circumstances, it can be argued that you were aware that the dog could be dangerous.
Representation is Important
Because dog bite laws and liability laws vary so much from state to state, it’s best that you do not try to represent yourself in the event that a dog bites someone on your property. Instead, retain the services of a good lawyer!