A Dog Owner’s Legal Defenses–Was Your Dog Provoked?
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If your dog bites someone, you may assume you will be held fully responsible for the incident and find you or your insurance company paying out thousands of dollars in compensation. However, depending on the circumstances surrounding the bite, that may not be how things play out in court. In fact, if you and your Los Angeles personal injury attorney from Grey Law can prove the victim provoked your dog prior to being bitten, you may walk out of court having won your case. But before you get overconfident, here are some aspects of these cases that will be taken into consideration.
Dog Bite Liability
While you should be concerned about dog bite liability in these situations, it is important to note that you will have several legal arguments you may use to argue your dog’s innocence. For example, in addition to saying the victim provoked your pet into attacking, you may also be able to say the victim was unreasonably careless, voluntarily risked being injured by a canine, or was in the act of trespassing or breaking the law at the time they were bitten. However, you likely won’t be able to use multiple reasons when arguing your case, since some defenses may not be allowed under state law. To know which defense will work best for your case, speak to a dog attack lawyer Los Angeles from Grey Law.
How is a Dog Provoked?
In many cases, dog owners may be let off the hook for strict liability if they can show their dog was intentionally or unintentionally provoked by the victim. As for examples of intentional provocation, this can include hitting or harassing the dog. As for unintentional provocation, this can include such things as accidentally stepping on its tail, attempting to pet them while they are eating, trying to break up a fight between two dogs, or spraying mace on a dog. If these or other actions by the victim provoked your dog into inflicting a bite, discuss the details of the accident with an experienced attorney who is well-versed in domestic animal cases.
Children and Dog Bites
While a defense of provocation by the victim may work in your favor if the victim is an adult, it could be different if your dog bit a child. In most cases, this will come down to how the judge chooses to interpret state law and whether or not they felt the child knew what they were doing at the time of the accident. While some courts have stated a child younger than seven is incapable of understanding the concept of provocation, others have ruled provocation can be used as a viable defense even if the victim is very young. Since these laws are obviously open to great levels of interpretation by courts, hire a lawyer who will fight hard to prove your case in court.
Assuming the Risk of Injury
If a person comes onto your property despite you having placed a “Beware of Dog” sign in a prominent spot, you may be able to argue in court that the victim assumed the risk of being injured by venturing onto your property. In addition, if you take your dog to a veterinarian, groomer, or other person who handles dogs on a regular basis and they are bitten, this same legal defense may apply to your case. In most California cases, courts have long held that anyone who willingly assumes the risk of injury when around dogs cannot hold the owner to strict liability standards. When these situations arise and you know you have the law on your side, that may not stop a person from attempting to sue you for damages. Therefore, always be prepared to hire a lawyer to handle your case.
Trespassing and Breaking the Law
Should a person be trespassing or breaking the law when they are bitten by your dog, this can also be considered an act of provocation by the court. However, if the trespasser happens to be a child, the court may still choose to hold you liable for their injuries, since courts generally agree that landowners have a duty to protect children from dangerous situations when on their property, no matter the circumstances. Along with this, courts also expect landowners to take reasonable precautions to ensure their dogs are not in a position to hurt others, so keep this in mind as well. Since it is likely many complexities will come about in these cases, consult with a lawyer that pet-owning clients trust with a high success rate.
If you believe the person bitten by your dog acted in a careless manner that led to the bite, gather as much evidence as possible to hand over to your attorney at your initial consultation. Should your attorney be able to prove this occurred, you can plan on leaving court with a ruling in your favor. In some situations, the court will rule in your favor even if it feels you as the owner may have still been 50 percent responsible for what happened. Since this can mean the difference between owing a victim nothing at all or potentially thousands of dollars, do all you can to show the victim was indeed careless around your dog.
When claims make their way to court, both sides often have very different stories to tell as to what transpired. Because of this, who wins and who loses often comes down to the attorneys they have acting as their legal counsel. If you want to come out of your dog bite case a winner, make sure the truth is told in court and that you have an attorney on your side who will always fight hard to see your legal rights protected. When in need of a lawyer, contact Grey Law for an immediate consultation.
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