You might place a “Beware of Dog” sign on your fence thinking it will protect you from any liability or just to keep trespassers away. However, that sign may do little if someone is injured by your dog, especially if you know your dog is aggressive or a threat to someone’s safety.
When a dog attacks another person, that dog’s owner may be legally liable for any injuries caused in the attack. That means victims of vicious bites or attacks are allowed to seek compensation for their injuries. Warning the public about your dog on your property is not a sure-fire way to avoid a lawsuit. In some cases, it may be used against you.
Anyone who owns a dog in Pennsylvania should know that keeping a dog is more than caring for it. As the pet’s owner, you are now 100% responsible for the actions of that animal. Therefore, if it were to attack someone else, you are financially liable.
The Sign Doesn’t Prevent Someone from Filing a Lawsuit against You
Placing a “Beware of Dog” sign does not make you immune to lawsuits. In fact, not only will it not protect you, but it can be very helpful to the plaintiff‘s lawyer. The courts may agree that placing the sign means you knew there was a safety risk because of your animal, which means you were letting the public know about that risk. If someone is injured despite that, and you did nothing else to prevent the injuries, you could still be liable for all of the costs associated with the attack.
Also, if your dog has complaints against them or they have bitten before, that sign is just admitting that you know your pet is a risk to public safety. Therefore, the court may assume that you knew your dog was a risk and did nothing to protect the public from it.
Using Neutral Wording May be Better
If you are posting a sign as a way to avoid liability, realize there is no guarantee. However, using a neutral sign may prevent the interpretation that you knew your pet was a risk. For example, instead of “Beware of Dog,” you may use “Dog on Premises” or even a “No Trespassing” sign instead.
The “No Trespassing” sign may offer more protection because you are telling the public to not trespass on your property. Trespassing is a crime. Therefore, if someone were to enter your fenced backyard and then was attacked by your dog, you may not be liable because they unlawfully came onto your property (trespassing).
What If I’m Attacked by a Dog and the Owner Had a Sign?
If you or a loved one was attacked by a dog and there is a “beware of dog” sign posted on the fence, it may help you in your case. That said, only an attorney can decide officially whether that sign plays a role in your case’s outcome. In some instances, that sign may do nothing for you or the defendant.
Numerous factors play a role in determining liability in a dog bite case and when evaluating the settlement you can get from that attack. These factors include:
Were You or the Victim Trespassing?
An important question is whether or not the victim was trespassing. Again, trespassing is a crime, and it doesn’t require the owner posting a sign for it to be a crime. If you or the victim knowingly entered the owner’s property, and then you were attacked by their dog on private property, you are not entitled to compensation for your injuries because you were harmed while committing a crime.
That means even a “Beware of Dog” sign may do nothing if you were to hop a neighbor’s fence and then get attacked by their dog on the other side of the fence.
One of the most common questions asked is whether trespassing occurred at the time of the attack. If it has, then you are less likely to receive compensation or the court may not even allow your case to move forward.
There are exceptions to entering the property, such as a post office worker or gas meter reader. This is because, in this case, their job allows them to enter or walk onto someone’s property as part of their job.
What Actions Did the Owner Take to Protect the Public?
If a dog is vicious or the owner knows that their dog is a threat to public safety, the next question would be what effort did they make to protect the public? While fencing a dog in is the first step, a fence is not going to hold a dog. There are numerous cases where a dog will jump the fence to attack someone walking by. Therefore, if a fence is all that an owner did to protect the public, it will not be enough. Instead, an owner that knows their dog poses a threat should leash down the dog or have them in a gated kennel while they are away to prevent any injuries or attacks.
How Severe Are the Wounds?
The severity of the wounds goes toward the settlement amount rather than determining if you have a case. The more severe and permanent the injury, the higher the settlement amount would be. Also, all medical costs, lost wages, and other tangible losses stemming from the attack are compensable under personal injury laws.
Were You Injured by a Vicious Dog? You May Have a Case
The best way to determine if you have a case – and how much you could potentially receive – is to speak with an injury attorney.
Attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq., has helped countless victims just like you and your family receive the compensation they deserve. Whether you know the dog’s owner or it was a stray, you still should speak with an attorney to see if you can receive compensation for your claim.
Get started by scheduling a free, no-obligation consultation. Call the office toll-free, or complete an online contact form to get started.