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Landlord Liability for Dog Bites

Dogs love unconditionally and look cute while doing it. It makes sense that 45% of homes have dogs to greet them at the door. Sometimes man's best friend turns into someone else's nightmare. Every year thousands are injured due to dog bites. One out of five people must tend to their medical injuries after a bite.

Often the owner of a dog that bites someone is legally responsible for the injuries under tort law. Yet in certain cases, a landlord or property owner is also responsible for injuries caused by a tenant's dog. Read on to learn more about landlord liability for dog bites.

Dog Bite Lawsuits and Liability

When a dog attack happens, the law holds various people liable, or responsible, for the injury. The owner of the dangerous dog may be responsible in some states. In others, the rental property owner can also be liable. Each state has its laws for liability in dog bite cases.

Some states like California hold the owner of a dog strictly liable. This means the dog owner is responsible for the injury. It does not matter if it was the first time your dog bit someone or what the other person was doing at the time.

Other states consider other factors before finding liability. Florida will reduce damages under comparative fault if the victim was trespassing. Other states will find liability if the dog owner had prior or actual knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities. Dangerous propensities include the dog snapping, dog fighting, lunging, and growling at others.

If you are a dog owner and renter, you have a duty of care as a tenant and dog owner to others. You may be responsible for your dog's property damage too. Property damage includes your dog destroying landlord property like a door. It also includes damages to another animal. Most states classify dogs as property so the victim can recover the cost of their animal ("the property") as well.

Civil sanctions are more likely if your dog showed viciousness or dangerous behavior. Insurance is essential if your dog has vicious propensities. As a dog-owning tenant, renter's insurance can protect you financially against dog bite liability. Purchasing an insurance company policy gives you protection in two ways. First, an attorney represents your interests when a claim is filed. Second, the policy will pay for any fees or judgments issued against you.

Note that some renter's insurance policies will not cover breeds with a reputation of being aggressive or protective. Examples include Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. If your dog is not covered under your renter's policy, you can purchase animal liability insurance.

Landlord Responsibility for Dog Bites

If you are a landlord, you must decide whether to allow dogs in your rentals. As a property owner, you have a duty of care to your tenants and the public on your property under premises liability law. This is especially true regarding any common areas on your property.

Allowing dogs, even if harmless, can increase the risk of property damage or dog bite injuries. Ensure you are aware of your responsibility to individuals with assistance animals even if you have a no-pet policy. A dog-bite victim may include the landlord as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. The law doesn't automatically hold landlords liable for dog bites. Dog bite laws can be very different from one state to the next. But that does not mean a landlord is never liable.

Courts have found landlords liable for injuries when a tenant's dog bites. A landlord's personal responsibility depends on the facts of the particular case. For example, as a landlord, you are more likely responsible if you:

  • Were aware of the dog's violent or aggressive behavior. You are now considered to be harboring a dangerous dog
  • Saw a "Beware of Dog" disclaimer on a tenant's property and did not inquire about a potentially vicious dog
  • Other tenants or the public complained the dog was a dangerous animal and you did not remove them. In not doing so, you allowed a dangerous condition on the landlord's property. California found this to be true in Donchin v. Guerrero
  • Had some level of control over the dog. This includes situations where a landlord cared for the animal like the owner of the dog would. Feeding the dog and taking it for walks are two examples of a caregiving role

Smart landlords seek a client relationship with a landlord and tenant attorney. They have clear dog policies and adequate insurance coverage to cover tenant injuries.

Get a Review of Your Dog Bite Claim

Various legal remedies are available to some dog attack victims. A personal injury attorney specializing in dog bite law is most qualified to help a victim. It's important to act as soon as possible to preserve your legal rights. You have a limited amount of time to bring a claim. It's important to learn about the strengths of your particular case. Seek help from a personal injury attorney near you and you may be able to recover medical bills as damages.

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