Dog Owners Legal Protection for Injuries Caused By Their Dog

If someone gets bitten by a dog then the dog owner is responsible for its behavior. So, many dog owners have this question – if my dog bites someone then how do I get legal defense? There are some cases, when the dog owner gets legal protection.

If the injured victim –

  • Provoked your dog
  • Knowingly took risk of getting bit
  • Was violating the law
  • Was trespassing
  • Was unreasonably careless, which contributed the wounds

Dog owner defenses differ from one state to another. Defenses depend on the kind of case filed. For example, dog owner’s responsibility may be on the basis of one-bite rule (the owner is aware that the dog will bite), and not under dog-bite statute (the victim does not have to prove dog owner is at fault).

Did the victim provoke the dog?

A dog owner can defend a lawsuit successfully by demonstrating that the victim incited the dog. People unaware about dogs can provoke them in many ways. Accidentally stepping on a dogs tail, petting its head when it is eating, superseding a dog fight or going near its territory are termed as provocation. This can trigger a hostile response.

Dogs in strange surroundings and strangers feel nervous and out of fright bite, if approached.

Did the victim knowingly take the risk?

To avoid responsibility the dog owner has to prove that the victim knew that the dog will bite, but took that risk voluntarily. For example, people like pet sitters, groomer, kennel operators, or veterinarians work with dogs are generally presumed to take risk of dog bite voluntarily.

Was the victim trespassing?

In majority of states, dog owners are not responsible, if trespassers get injured by their dog. A trespasser is a person, who ventures onto private property without some implied invitation (lack of warning signs and locked gates is regarded as implied invitation).

However, legal rules to determine whether dog owner is responsible for injured trespasser differs from one state to another.

  • Dog bite statutes – If the victim has good reason to be on the property like mail carriers or police officers or someone who has implied invitation are always covered.
  • Common law – Dog owner is aware that his dog is dangerous and bites a housebreaker, then under common law rule, owner is liable.
  • Negligence – In some states, injured trespasser can sue the landowner for negligence and win. If the property owner is aware that the trespasser is on his land and with an intention to harm does not warn the trespasser about the danger. A landowner is responsible to protect trespassing kids, who have no judgment to avoid hazardous situation.

Was the victim breaking a law?

A few dog-bite statute are valid only, if the injured person proves, he/she was not at fault. In some states, the victim has to prove that he/she was not doing something illegal, when the dog bit.

Was the victim careless?

In some state, injuries contributed due to victims own carelessness is eligible to get less money from dog owner. This principle is termed as ‘comparative fault’. In few states, careless victim recovers nothing from dog owner.