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What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property?

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People love their dogs, which explains all of the articles available about dog bite liability and exceptions. Many dog bite issues have been argued to death, but common sense describes the laws in most districts.

According to a post at nolo.com, if a dog bites someone on your property, as an owner, you probably face strict liability for the injuries. Dog bite treatments can be surprisingly expensive, and your case might include loss of income from a temporary disability and punitive damages if the dog has a history of biting.

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Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

Exceptions to Strict Liability

Many jurisdictions follow a strict liability interpretation of the law, which means that a dog owner is personally responsible for any bites or other injuries caused by an angry or overly enthusiastic pet. The injured person may sue for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. Children are especially susceptible to the emotional damage of being mauled by a dog they thought was friendly.

However, dog owners can fight back and deny liability under certain circumstances. The circumstances that might generate an exception to owner liability for dog bites include:

  • Deliberate provocation of the dog
  • Trespassing on the property
  • Pursuing illegal or criminal activities when bitten
  • Contributing to the injury by reckless carelessness — such as ignoring warnings to “beware of the dog”
  • Voluntarily risking injury on behalf of another person or decoying strategy

Victims can’t use these excuses to negate liability in some states that have strict dog bite laws. The ability to claim an exception against dog bite laws depends on the nature of the lawsuit, mildness or intensity of the attack, and other factors.

One-Bite Rule

Some states assign liability based on the one-bite rule. This principle states that dog owners who know their dog has bitten someone before are automatically held liable for future bites. The rule can even justify punitive damages against a dog owner who has frequently faced dog bite charges. On the positive side, owners can use the evidence that they had no idea their dog would bite someone.

Dog Bites Performed in Guard Duty Service

According to a post at law.info, dogs biting trespassers without a good reason for entering the property usually avoid liability. The case is bolstered if the property has a fence and gate, warning signs, not to trespass, and warnings about guard dogs on duty. Many commercial and residential property owners have their grounds patrolled by guard dogs on duty.

People who use guard dogs must be careful when taking their guard dogs outside the property. Bites in public will make you legally responsible for medical bills and damages, which can be extreme when a dog trained to attack does its job. Generally, owners of dogs that bite people without a legal reason for being on the property are not held accountable, but that might not be true in your particular state.

Landlord Liability

According to an article posted at candsins.com, many landlords deny rental applications for people with certain breeds of dogs or any dogs at all. A landlord has the right to deny pets in rental property. Landlords can also be named as defendants in dog bite lawsuits, so many property owners and managers just prohibit dogs entirely.

Rental insurance often includes liability protection for certain breeds of dogs, which means the policy pays any lawsuit award or settlement up to the policy’s limits. As a practical issue, few landlords are successfully sued for dog bites because strict liability rules don’t apply to landlords. There must usually be evidence that the landlord deliberately ignored the risk of a vicious dog with a history of biting people.

Getting Representation Regardless of whether you own a dog that bit someone or were injured by a dog bite, hiring a lawyer is usually essential. A dog bite lawyer can help you get compensation or help you avoid liability.

About the author: Kerry L. Tucker


Early in his journalism college years, Kerry had a revelation: there were not nearly enough law communicators. Peoples’ difficulties in understanding the law, procedures, and how the justice system worked stemmed from the fact that no one took the patience to explain complicated matters to them. Therefore, he took upon him the task of helping people navigate legal matters easier. He works with attorneys and other legal journalists, and spends time doing research so that everyone – from a mother whose child got a bike injury to a company needing insurance counsel – to find the actionable answers they are looking for.

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