Yes. Pets are the owner’s personal property. This implies that their owners may be held personally accountable for any harm they do to people or property.
Dog bites are frequently associated with animal injuries. Still, any harm or destruction to property caused by your pet, whether it be a dog, cat, snake, rabbit, bird, etc., can subject you to liability.
A dog owner’s liability, in particular, is defined by statute in the majority of states.
What’s the Liability of a Dog Owner?
Your level of dog attack criminal liability is significantly influenced by your residence, including the city or county. In states like California, Florida, and Massachusetts, any dog owner is liable for the canine companion’s behavior. In these so-called strict liability states, the dog’s owner is strictly responsible for the animal’s actions.
You are not responsible for your dog’s behavior in several situations. You would not be held responsible if the victim was a criminal who was bitten while committing a crime (like robbing a bank) or if the victim provoked the dog. Additionally, if your dog bit someone trespassed on your land, you would not be held responsible.
Other jurisdictions, including New York, Texas, and Oregon, only hold the owner accountable if they knew or should have known that their dog was hostile.
How long the state’s statute of limitations for injuries will determine how long a person has to file a lawsuit after being bitten by an animal. The average statute of limitations for animal bite injuries is six months, while the maximum is three years.
The statute of limitations may be shortened for defendants who work for or represent government entities. In California, for instance, a victim of an injury like a dog bite has only six months to file a lawsuit against a government employee or organization.
If the victim is a minor, they may file a lawsuit at any time before becoming 19 years old in several states, including California. In many places, the owner of an injured animal has up to three years to file a lawsuit against a non-government defendant. This is true for human victims as well.
Reviewing the state laws is crucial because each one has its own set of regulations.
It could be useful to speak with a personal injury lawyer in the state to find out the deadline that applies to the case.
How Can Animal Owners Protect Themselves from Liability?
You may do a few things as a pet owner to shield yourself from liability.
If you live in a state where you are held legally responsible for your dog’s assaults, excluding exceptional circumstances, you should consider getting homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Check your policy to find out if your policy covers dog bites on your property.
Certain dog breeds, such as pit bulls, which are seen as more dangerous and aggressive dogs, are not covered by all insurance companies.
And knowledge truly is power. Look up the dog ownership laws in your state, county, and city. As previously indicated, several states have “strict responsibility” statutes. By virtue of being the dog’s owner, these laws hold you legally accountable for any injury your dog causes.
Maintaining that your dog lives in an enclosed space is the greatest way to reduce liability. By doing this, everyone who encounters them must be on your property.
Without a fence, the dog may run amok and bite people. If required, you might claim in court that the victim started the problem by trespassing on your property if you have a fence.
It is crucial that you post warnings about a vicious dog in prominent locations. Your cherished pet could be rough with strangers even though they are angels around you. Everyone who approaches your property can be given a fair warning by a sign indicating there is a dog present.
Without this alert, the victim will have a stronger case in court that you knew about the incident but did nothing to stop it. This error could be regarded as carelessness.
Most experts agree that a dog who has been spayed or neutered is less likely to be aggressive. Additionally, you will be able to demonstrate that the victim unnecessarily roused the hostility in an otherwise tranquil animal.
The dog will benefit from classes that teach them how to respect and obey humans. Additionally, you can use your attendance at these sessions as evidence that your animal is not aggressive if a victim brings a lawsuit against you.
Never engage in combative games with your dog. For instance, refrain from playing “tug-of-war.” Keep in mind that the animal does not fully understand the distinction between a game and a real-world circumstance.
Whatever you do, there may still be instances where your dog is involved in a conflict or other unpleasant circumstances. You can then find yourself the target of a hefty lawsuit.
Make sure to contact a defense lawyer for a dog bite before things spiral out of control. You can tell the court your side of the story with the assistance of an experienced law firm. You want your dog to be left alone and avoid problems with the law above all else.
What Are Defenses to Dog Bite Claims?
You may raise any of the following dog bite defense(s) if your dog bit someone else:
- Provocation: If the victim of the attack provoked or agitated the dog, you might not be held responsible for the resulting harm.
- Contributory negligence: In states with a contributory negligence standard, your liability may only extend to the extent that the court holds you personally responsible for the dog’s actions. In other words, your liability can be reduced if the victim participates in the attack.
- Assumption of the risk: The victim has assumed the risk of the injury if you adequately warned others about your dog’s propensity for aggression and they knowingly joined the setting, knowing it might not be safe.
Can Veterinarians Sue Pet Owners for Their Injuries?
Normally, if a pet bites during a visit to the vet, the veterinarian cannot be sued by the pet owner.
By virtue of their line of work, veterinarians take some risks while treating any animal.
Additionally, a veterinarian’s job occasionally involves prodding and prodding an animal, frequently resulting in an uncontrollable reaction.
Finally, some courts have ruled that once veterinarians have custody of a dog, they temporarily assume ownership of it. This eliminates the responsibility of the actual owner while the animal is in the vet’s care.
A few things are an exception. Even if the pet’s behavior is unusually bad and the owner fails to alert the veterinarian, they may still be held responsible.
Additionally, if a veterinarian fails to adequately safeguard her staff members from unneeded risks posed by the animal, the staff members may file a lawsuit against the veterinarian.
Do I Need an Attorney?
Consult a dog bite lawyer if someone else’s dog has bitten you or your child and you’re thinking about suing the dog’s owner. You can better understand your rights and obligations and navigate the complex legal system by working with an experienced personal injury lawyer.