What Happens If a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property?
Dogs are very popular pets in America, but dogs can also cause severe injuries when they bite or attack people. Dog owners must take care to prevent injuries to others while walking their dogs in public, visiting dog parks, or simply walking through their neighborhoods. However, dog owners also have a duty of care to prevent dog bite injuries in their homes. When a visitor to a dog owner’s home or property suffers a dog bite injury, the owner is likely liable for the resulting damages. It’s crucial for all dog owners to understand their duty of care to others both inside and outside the home. Contact a Philadelphia dog bite attorney to get immediate help, our attorneys are available to take your call 24/7.
Duty of Care Under Premises Liability Laws
Generally, property owners have a duty of care to prevent injuries to lawful visitors on their properties. This includes invitees like friends, relatives, and neighbors who have the owner’s express or implied permission to enter the property. If the owner has any reason to believe his or her dog may injure a lawful guest on the property, the owner must take reasonable steps to prevent injuries.
Property owners also owe a duty of care to licensees, or individuals who have permission to enter a property for their own purposes like mail carriers, utility workers, and salespeople. If a licensee is likely to encounter the dog while on the property, the owner must ensure the dog cannot injure the licensee.
When it comes to injuries to lawful visitors from dog attacks, owners are strictly liable for medical expenses for a first-time bite or mild dog-related injury. If the owner had no reason to suspect the dog would bite or the dog had no prior history of attacks, then the owner won’t be liable for the victim’s other damages like lost income and pain and suffering.
The distinction of “lawful” visitor is an important one. Pennsylvania law does not require property owners to prevent injuries to trespassers. If an individual illegally enters private property and the property owner’s dog causes an injury to the trespasser, the dog’s owner is not liable for the trespasser’s damages.
Ultimately, if a dog owner had any reason to believe the dog may attack someone but failed to prevent injuries to a lawful visitor on the property, the dog owner is likely liable for the victim’s damages in some capacity.
Defenses for Dog Owners
There are few defenses available to dog owners whose pets cause severe injuries. The two most common include trespassing and provocation. As previously mentioned, a dog owner has no duty of care to prevent injury to a trespasser, nor is a dog owner responsible for a dog retaliating against provocation.
If someone injures the dog, threatens the dog physically, or takes inappropriate action against the dog’s owner, the owner is not liable for the dog attacking out of self-defense or in defense of its owner.
Contributory negligence comes into play in many dog bite lawsuits in Pennsylvania. If a jury decides that a dog bite victim contributed to his or her injuries in any way, this contributory negligence does not necessarily bar the victim from recovery. However, the victim would lose a portion of the case award equal to his or her percentage of fault for the incident. Additionally, if the jury decides the plaintiff’s fault exceeds the defendant’s, then the plaintiff cannot recover damages.
Both dog attack victims and owners of dogs that cause injuries need to know their legal options after any dog-related injury. A reliable Philadelphia personal injury lawyer can help a victim determine his or her best options for recovery or help a dog owner defend against an unjust charge or criminal charges for negligent dog ownership.
Who Pays If Your Dog Bites Someone on Your Property
If your dog bites someone on your property, the responsibility for covering the costs associated with the incident typically falls on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Homeowner’s insurance policies typically include liability coverage that extends to incidents like dog bites. This coverage can help pay for the victim’s medical expenses, lost income, and other related costs.
Be aware of the coverage limits in your policy. Insurance coverage may not cover all expenses, and if the damages exceed your policy’s limits, you may be personally liable for the difference.
Dog Liability Exclusions
Some homeowner’s insurance policies may have exclusions or restrictions related to certain breeds of dogs or a history of aggressive behavior. Review your policy to understand any specific conditions that might apply.
If you don’t have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you may be personally responsible for covering the costs. In that case, your personal assets could be at risk.
What To Do if Your Dog Bites Someone on Your Property
If your dog bites someone on your property, it’s important to take immediate and responsible actions to address the situation. Here are steps to follow:
- Secure Your Dog: Put the dog in a separate room or a secure enclosure away from the person who was bitten to prevent any further incidents.
- Check on the Victim’s Well-being: Assess the severity of the bite and, if necessary, call for medical assistance. Even seemingly minor bites can carry the risk of infection.
- Exchange Information: Exchange contact information with the person who was bitten. Get their name, phone number, and address. Provide your own contact information.
- Provide Information on Your Dog’s Vaccination History: If your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, provide information about this to the person who was bitten. This includes details about rabies vaccination, which is crucial.
- Offer First Aid: If the bite is minor, you can offer basic first aid, such as cleaning the wound with soap and water and applying an antiseptic.
- Gather Evidence: Take photos of the location where the bite occurred, the injury, and any other relevant evidence. If there were witnesses, ask for their contact information.
- Contact Your Insurer: Notify your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company about the incident. Provide them with the details and follow their guidance on how to proceed.
- Cooperate with Authorities: If animal control or law enforcement becomes involved, cooperate fully. Provide any requested information and comply with any directives.
- Consider Seeking Professional Help: If your dog has a history of aggression or if the incident was severe, consider seeking the guidance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can help address any behavioral issues and reduce the risk of future incidents.
- Legal Consultation: Consult a Philadelphia dog bite attorney, especially if there are concerns about potential legal consequences. They can provide advice on how to protect your interests and navigate any legal implications.
Taking prompt and responsible actions after a dog bite incident helps ensure the well-being of the victim and reduces the risk of you facing legal consequences.