"Since I am a dog, beware my fangs." Perhaps you’ve read that line from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (Act III). What was written back in the times of great lords and ladies still holds true today. It's this simple: Dogs can and will bite. But what happens if a dog bites someone on your property? Whether invited guest, trespasser, or salesperson, you may be held liable in certain circumstances. An even bigger question is who pays the expenses related to a dog bite lawsuit?
Below you'll learn about the different scenarios in a dog bite lawsuit involving an incident on your property, as well as a brief primer on whether your homeowner's or renter's insurance will cover the alleged damages. Keep in mind, this is a general overview and each state has its own, unique dog bite laws and statutes. Be sure to check the laws in your state or contact a local attorney to learn more.
Premises Liability: What Standard of Care Do You Owe?
The first thing we should look at in a dog bite case on your property is premises liability. When a person enters your property they have a reasonable expectation they will not be injured. This is known as the "standard of care." A homeowner owes a certain standard of care to anyone on their property. That’s pretty fair, right? This means the owner or occupier of the property, such as a renter, must maintain a relatively safe environment for all persons entering the premises. This includes keeping potentially dangerous animals away from guests or being sure to put up warning signs about the animal’s propensities.
Invited Guests and Others
In most situations, dog owners owe a reasonable duty of care to anyone lawfully on their property. If the injured person can show the owner's negligence or failure to use reasonable care in restraining the dog or warning of the dog’s dangerous propensities, they may sue for damages in many states.
You may find it shocking to know that the law in a minority of states actually allows trespassers who are bitten by your dog on your property to bring a lawsuit. It will ultimately depend on both the state you are in and whether or not there is a dog bite statute in place that protects owners from liability to trespassers. For instance, Florida’s dog bite statute only allows persons to sue the owner or occupier if they are bitten by a dog and that person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place. Simply put, a person is not lawfully in a private place if they are trespassing, attempting to commit a burglary, or other criminal offense.
If your Chihuahua Daffodil has sunk her teeth into people in the past, you are on notice that she can be considered dangerous under the law. In that case, if Dangerous Daffodil bites someone on your property, the homeowner or occupier may be held strictly liable. A safeguard against this, however, is to put up a warning sign, indicating there is a dangerous dog on the property.
Who Pays When Fido Bites?
One important tip is that if you do own a dog and are concerned about being held liable if they bite another person, you may want to consider homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Most policies have some form of coverage available in the event you are sued due to an animal bite on your property. There are also certain types of pet insurance policies you may be able to get to cover these incidents. Ultimately, if you have neither of these, you can be held personally liable if you lose a lawsuit against an injured party.
What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property: Related Resources
Get Legal Help If You've Been Bitten by a Dog on Someone Else's Property
Dog bites can be a serious problem. If a canine bit someone on your property, you may need to fight a lawsuit. Conversely, if you were bitten by a dog on someone else's property, you may be able to recover damages from the property owner. Contact a local personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.