When a dog bite or attack occurs, there can be a lot of confusion as to what constitutes negligence. If you are thinking of bringing a lawsuit against the owner of the dog, it is important that you understand the issue of vicious propensities.
Vicious propensities are signs that can be considered as warnings that the dog is likely to harm another person. The animal presents a risk to the public, and the owner is aware of this risk. This is required in order to prove liability. If the owner had no reason to suspect – or did not reasonably know about – the dog’s likelihood to attack, there may be no liability.
What is a Vicious Propensity?
Vicious propensities relate to a dog’s behavior. These actions should have signaled to the dog’s owner that there was a risk for injury. In a dog bite case, the jury will determine if the owner should have known that the dog posed a threat to the public. They do so by reviewing the facts and actions of the owner.
There are indicators that a dog may have a vicious tendency. These include:
- A dog that jumps aggressively on the fence;
- A dog that barks, snaps, shows teeth, and growls;
- A dog that has had prior attacks;
- A dog registered as a dangerous dog.
There are also less obvious tendencies that a dog – or its owner – may show, such as:
- Using a dog for a guard dog;
- Constructing a pen or fence to ensure the dog does not get near people;
- “Beware of Dog” signs posted;
- Verbal warnings given to friends, family, and neighbors to avoid the dog;
- Past attacks on other animals;
- Vet records indicating that the dog is aggressive.
These are just some of the many indicators, but these situations do not necessarily prove the dog’s owner knew that the dog was a risk to the public. It has to be reasonable that the owner would have recognized these signs.
The strength of the evidence presented to the courts matters in helping to establish the owner’s knowledge. An attorney must convince the jury that the owner should have protected the public because he or she knew that the dog was a threat. After all, it is how the victim was attacked that matters to the courts. For example, a dog has been reported for barking at people passing by. You are walking to your mailbox and, instead of just barking, this time the dog escapes through the yard and attacks you. Because the dog was only reported for barking, it is unlikely that this would be enough to establish that the owner knew the dog had a vicious propensity.
Does a Victim Have to Prove Vicious Propensity?
No, not in all cases. It is difficult to prove that an owner knew about the dog’s tendencies, even with past reports. Instead, the victim must prove the dog was vicious in some way, which was known by the owner.
Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer to Explore Your Options
If you or a loved one was attacked by a dog, contact Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. today. He can assist you with collecting evidence and presenting the evidence to the court. Reach out to him today for a free consultation by calling his office at 800-465-8795 or his cell at 215-771-0430. You can also contact him online through his contact form.