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The Liability of Owners and Non-owners in Dog Attacks

By Edited Mar 12, 2016 0 0

When an injury to a person is caused by a dog, naturally, it is the owner who is considered liable for it. There are three legal theories that support this claim, and one of it applies depending on the state where the dog attack happened.

  • Strict Liability: As the dog's owner, you are liable for the entire accident including the injuries it caused. California, New Jersey, and Ohio are some of the states that use this theory. There are some conditions in which the owner may not be liable though.
  • One Bite: Texas and Virginia has this law. The "one bite" is the first time your dog bites a person. The owner would generally not be liable for this first bite, only to the succeeding instances of attack if there are any, but that is assuming there's no other "dog laws" violated. The One Bite law is subjected to exceptions too.
  • Negligence: Negligence means failure to take precautionary measures in ensuring that your pet won't be provoked and cause harm to anyone, like not putting him on a leash. This theory is used to hold owners liable when the aforementioned two do not apply.
  • There are some cases too that the owner may not be the only one responsible. Non-owner liability in dog bite cases may involve its keepers, the owner's family members, and even the landlord or property owners. The common law states that someone who harbors or keeps a dog is just as liable as its legal owner.
  • Keeper/ harborer: The keeper or harborer is some who present the dog meals, lodging, shelter or refuge. In most cases, both the owner and keeper are liable for the injuries caused by the dog bite.
  • Family members: This one is quite complicated because some jurisdictions don't allow parents, who may be the legal owners of the dog, to be sued by their child who's the victim of the attack, because they have "parental immunity." However, there are courts that can still sue on behalf of the child because of the dog bite statute that imposes strict liability on dog owners.
  • Landlord: Land or property owners have the duty of care to people who enter and leave their property. Dogs may pose a risk of injury sometimes, so landlords have to warn the public about the dogs' presence and control the animal to further reduce the risk. Landlords may be held liable for the injury caused by their own or a tenant's dog to visitors, depending on the legal status of the person.



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