What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property?
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.s if a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property?
Why Hire a Dog Bite Attorney?
Dog bites are incredibly frequent occurrences, especially in California. Though there are several breeds in particular that are linked to attacks, such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and German Shepherds, the owner can also be responsible if they mistreat or abuse the dog.
Dog bite incidents can be terrifying and often lead to lasting mental trauma and anguish in addition to the physical injuries. This is especially true in cases involving infants and minors.
Because dog bite cases can be complex, it is imperative that you are represented by an experienced and knowledgeable dog bite attorney right from the beginning. There is much more that goes into dog bite claims beyond negotiating a settlement with the dog’s owner or their homeowner’s insurance carrier. Some of the things that need to be done as soon as possible after a dog bite include:
- Seek medical attention (Call 911 or go directly to the emergency room)
- Take photographs of the injuries
- Contact witnesses and obtain statements
- Report the attack to animal control services
- Investigate the dog’s owner
- Contact insurance companies and establish claims
What to Do If a Dog Has Bitten You
If a dog has bitten you, there are several things you should do as soon as possible:
- Immediately stop any bleeding. Clean the wound with soap and water.
- Seek medical attention. Go to your doctor’s office, an urgent care facility, or a hospital emergency room.
- Get the dog owner’s name and contact information (address and phone number).
- Obtain proof of rabies vaccination.
- Notify the police or local animal control officer.
- Contact a dog bite injury lawyer to discuss your rights.
Obtaining rabies information is critical. Rabies is a deadly virus that, if left untreated, is nearly always fatal. Cleaning the dog bite wound thoroughly with soap and generous amounts of water may help to disperse the rabies virus, if present.
Washing the affected area may also help to prevent further infections because, in addition to the rabies virus, dog bite injuries can carry bacteria that can cause several different infections and may require treatment with antibiotics.
Important Points To Consider
- It is a huge risk to allow your dog to run free without a leash. If your dog bites or injures another person while running free and uncontrolled, you will most likely be held liable, even if your dog has never injured or bitten anyone before. Your insurance company may or may not assign a dog bite lawyer to represent you.
- If you are bitten by a dog who is running loose, you are probably entitled to compensation for your injuries by the dog’s owner. Call a dog bite lawyer. Don’t be lulled into feeling sorry for the dog’s owner, who may be frantically and actively trying to regain control of the dog. The owner will probably be very apologetic, will be very upset, and will tell you that the dog has never bitten anyone before. None of this matters, though. Most likely, the dog’s owner will have applicable liability insurance. You should not be saddled with medical expenses you incurred through no fault of your own and the Tennessee legislature has provided you with the means to achieve fair compensation. Business is business, even if you are a dog lover yourself.
Tips for Negotiating a Dog Bite Injury Claim Without an Attorney
Once you begin negotiating with the claims adjuster, there are two categories of damages you’ll try to get the insurance company to pay:
- Special Damages are the ‘hard costs” of your dog bite claim, such as medical bills, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses. You can measure hard costs with bills, statements, and receipts.
- General Damages are also known as “pain and suffering.” There are no objective measurements for pain, suffering, and other forms of emotional distress from a dog attack.
Here we’ve organized a list of tips to help you establish a valid dog bite claim and successfully negotiate your hard costs.
Tip 1: Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Immediate medical attention after a dog attack is essential to your personal health and safety, as well as your insurance claim. If someone called 911, let the paramedics treat you at the scene. If they want to take you to the hospital, go with them.
If you are not transported directly to the emergency room, it’s important to see your primary care provider or go to an urgent care center right away. Even if you don’t need stitches, dog bites and scratches can cause serious diseases and infections without prompt treatment. Tell every person who treats you exactly when, where, and how you were attacked. Describe the dog and identify the owner, as best you can. It’s important to create a link between your medical treatment and the dog attack.
Never refuse or delay medical treatment for a dog bite. The insurance company would jump at the chance to deny your claim, arguing that your injuries are not connected with their insured.
Tip 2: Report the Dog Bite to Local Authorities
Most states require medical care providers to report dog bites. In any case, be sure to report the dog attack to your local animal control department.
An animal control officer will contact the dog’s owner for proof of current rabies vaccinations and other health issues.
Animal control officers have the authority to:
- Have the dog tested for rabies
- Issue citations against the dog owner
- Order for the owner to confine or muzzle the dog
- Remove the dog from the location for observation
Dogs of any age and size can carry rabies and other diseases. You need to know what you’re dealing with, so don’t hesitate to report the dog attack to local authorities.
Tip 3: Find Out About the Dog Owner
You’ll need the name and address of the dog owner, as well as their contact information and the name of their insurance company. If they rent their home, try to get the landlord’s information, too. If the owner is a stranger or ducking your attempts to speak with them, see if the information you need is in the police report or animal control report. Follow up with the animal control officer to verify the health status of the dog and get a copy of their report. Also, ask if any other complaints have been made about the same dog or the dog’s owner. If you find out the dog has a record of biting, or the owner has a history of complaints about letting their dogs run loose, you can use that information to support your insurance claim.
Tip 4: Check Your Local Dog Bite Laws
Depending on where you live, you can use state and local dog bite laws to support your claim. Some states follow a “strict liability” rule that makes the owner responsible for their dog’s attack, even when the owner took every reasonable precaution. A few states have a “one bite” rule that lets the owner off the hook if there was no reason to believe the dog would bite. You can still have a valid claim despite the “one bite” rule if you can prove the dog owner was negligent, like walking their dog without a leash.
When a dog owner fails to take reasonable action to prevent their dog from injuring others, the dog owner is negligent and responsible for damages. It’s up to you to show the insurance adjuster that their insured should have prevented their dog from attacking you.
Liability is a legal term for responsibility. Under most circumstances, the dog owner is liable for the victim’s damages when their dog bites someone.
Negligence happens when a dog owner does something wrong or fails to control their dog, as any reasonable dog owner would.
A reasonable dog owner knows when their dog might be a hazard to others. For example, if their dog lunges at strangers, snarls, snaps at children, or is aggressive toward other dogs, the owner should know the dog might hurt someone. In most jurisdictions, owners and handlers of working military and police dogs are protected from liability from injuries caused by their dogs.