If you have been bitten by a dog, you may be wondering if you have a legal case against the owner of the animal. The specific situation and the events that led up to the bite will determine if the owner was negligent and at fault. The following questions and answers can help you make a preliminary assessment so you can decide if you should press on with your case.
Were you on the owner's property?
If the bite occurred on the owner's property, you will need to show that you had permission to be there. Generally, if you were trespassing in any way you may not be able to prove owner negligence. This is even if the trespass was for innocent reasons, such as retrieving a ball that was accidentally thrown over the fence. Keep in mind there are some instances when the owner may still be found responsible, even if you didn't have permission to be there. For example, if you are attacked when walking up to the front door to ring the bell or if you are on the property for official business, such as mail delivery.
Did the owner have "beware of dog" signs posted?
A "beware of dog" sign does not immediately relieve the homeowner of all responsibility if their dog bites someone. The individual facts of the case will have to be determined to see if the owner should have taken further steps to ensure the bite didn't occur.
Are there leash laws in the area?
Most places have leash laws for when people take their dogs out to public areas. If you are attacked or bitten at a park, on a hiking trail, or when otherwise minding your own business by an unleashed dog, you have a very good case in your favor.
Did you ask permission before approaching?
The owner may not be considered negligent if you were the one that approached the dog in a way that could be considered threatening to the animal. For example, you need to ask the dog owner's permission before attempting to pet or touch the dog. If you simply walked up to the strange dog and started petting, and then were bit, the court may not see the owner as negligent since they were not given a chance to move their dog or warn that their dog could bite.
What were you doing when the dog bit you?
Another set of actions that could put you at fault is if you were being purposely threatening. If you were teasing the dog, kicking it, or throwing rocks at it and it turned on you, the owner is not likely to be liable for the bite you received.
Contact a dog bite attorney in your area, like one from Trammell & Mills Law Firm LLC, to discuss the details of your case.