Who Is Liable If a Dog Bites Someone?

Categories: Dog Bites

A beware of the dog signage posted on a wooden wall.

Typically, the dog’s owner is legally responsible if their dog bites or attacks someone. Whether they cause serious injuries or something minor, you cannot legally hold an animal responsible for their actions. However, the owner is not always the party liable either.

In some cases, you could have a third party other than the owner who is financially responsible for a dog attack or bite. Therefore, it is always important that you speak with an attorney to explore your options, get assistance with your investigation, and make sure you are holding all applicable parties liable for your injuries.

Some situations where another party could be considered liable include a party that had direct control over the dog, if the dog’s owner is under the legal age, or if there was a landlord aware of the dangerous dog on their premises.

The Dog’s Owner – the Usual Suspect

Typically, a dog bite case will fall on the owner and/or the keeper of the dog.

However, the definition of an owner often includes words like the keeper or harborer of the animal. So what does it mean if someone is keeping an animal? Does that mean they are the owner?

Typically, the person keeping the dog is the one that has the dog for more than a few consecutive days, which then means that they are the official owner of that dog under the law.

Most courts will also agree that a person is not the dog’s owner if they do not oversee their exercise, healthcare, feeding, or control. After all, those are tasks that typically stay with the owner. If you agree to take care of a dog for more than one day, that might not mean you are liable for any injuries that dog causes, because you did not have full control over the animal, but instead, you were just watching the dog.

What about Someone being a Temporary Caretaker?

If you are taking care of an animal temporarily, such as when the owner is out of town, the law can become fuzzy. If you are a dog sitter or taking the dog into your home for several days and you have agreed to care for them, then you are often considered the “keeper” under the law.

If your negligence results in the dog injuring someone, you could be liable along with the dog’s owner. For example, if you did not restrain the animal or you allowed them out and they were to cause harm, you could be liable even though you are not the legal owner of that dog. However, state law and past cases will often dictate whether or not you are truly liable. For example, in one state a person might not be held liable even though they were caring for the animal, while another state will have a strict rule that the caretaker is still considered the temporary owner.

What If the Caretaker Is a Professional?

Sometimes, the party taking care of the animal is a professional, such as a groomer, vet technician, or even an employee at a shelter. In this case, these professionals, who assume taking care of the dog as part of their profession, would then be responsible if that dog were to cause any injury.

When the Owner Is Under 18

There are instances where the dog’s owner is under the legal age, which means they are under 18 years of age. Now, in this case, you cannot legally hold a minor accountable for the actions of their dog. However, the minor’s parents (homeowner’s insurance for where the dog lives) would be a financially liable party if that dog were to cause injuries.

Property Owners or Landlords

In some cases, a property owner or landlord can be held responsible for a dog attack from a tenant’s dog, but only if they were aware that the dog was a risk. If the landlord had no reasonable knowledge that the animal was likely to attack someone, it is unlikely the court would consider them liable. In order to hold a landlord responsible, we must be able to prove that (i) the landlord knew that the dog was living at the rented property; (ii) knew that the dog was dangerous or vicious and (iii) could have done something about it (e.g., removing the tenant or forcing the tenant to get rid of the dog) and failed to do anything.

So, How Do You Seek Compensation?

Once you determine the party responsible for the dog’s actions, whether it is the owner or another party, you then need to file a claim. Often, you will file a claim with the homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy taken-out by the dog’s owner. This is why it is critical that you find out who is responsible for the dog’s actions as quickly as you can.

Hiring an attorney can help take the guesswork out of finding the responsible party. After all, you can see there are multiple parties who could be held liable. And if you do not name all of the responsible parties, then you could lose out on the compensation you need.

An attorney will investigate and consider state laws and past rulings to decide who might be financially liable for your injuries. From there, they will start the claims process with the right insurance policy. Usually, your attorney negotiates with the insurance company to negotiate a fair settlement. However, you may have to take the dog’s owner to court if they do not have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance or if their policy is too small to cover your damages.

Injured in a Vicious Dog Attack? Contact an Attorney Today

If you or a loved one was injured in a vicious dog attack, you may be entitled to compensation. To see how much you could receive, contact a local attorney with experience handling these types of cases.

Attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. understands how complicated these injury claims can be, especially when you have several parties possibly at fault. He has helped countless dog attack victims seek the compensation they need to cover medical costs, lost wages, pain, and suffering.

To get started, contact his office toll-free at 800-465-8795, his cell at 215-771-0430, or fill out an online contact form. All consultations are confidential, and we do not take a fee unless and until we get a successful resolution to your case. And even then, the fee comes from the settlement itself–never from your own pocket.