Three Exceptions To The Strict Liability Rules For Dog Attacks

Some states have strict liability rules for dog attacks. In such a state, if your dog bites someone, you are liable for the injury irrespective of your dog's history. Even if you did everything in your power to prevent the attack, you would still be held liable for it. However, as with most laws, there are a few exceptions to this strict liability rule. These are the major exceptions most states use:

Victim Provokes Dog

Dogs, even docile ones, may attack when provoked. Thus, even is strict liability states, you may be off the hook for a dog bite if the victim provoked the dog. Being intentionally mean to a dog, for example by poking it, is a classic example of provocation; however, even accidental provocations may invalidate a strict liability claim. For example, accidentally stepping on a dog's tail will still be considered a form of provocation. What is more, it is usually up to the victim to prove that they did not provoke the dog in any way.

Injury to Trespasser

You may escape liability if your dog attacks a trespasser, but you may have to prove that the victim was indeed a trespasser. Some people think that any unwelcome or uninvited person on their property is a trespasser, but this isn't true because some people have implied permission to enter your home. This exception will only apply to real trespassers.

For example, people don't usually invite door-to-door salespersons to their homes, but these people still make the rounds because they will be allowed into some homes and make sales. Therefore, a door-to-door salesperson has implied permission to enter your property, unless you have expressly forbidden them not to, for example, by putting up a "No Soliciting" sign.

Injury to Veterinarian

Bites to veterinarians do not fall under strict liability rules since the law presumes that veterinarians understand the risks of their job, which include dog bites. Unlike the general population, veterinarians should also have the skills and experience to guard against dog bites. Other courts also hold the view that vets are temporary "owners" of the animals under their care. A dog's owner cannot sue for the injuries the animal causes to them. This law usually applies to other people helping the vet treat or handle a sick dog, such as assistant veterinarians.

Therefore, if you are injured by a dog, don't assume that the owner is liable for your injuries just because you are in a strict liability state. You may be liable for your injuries if you fall in any of the three categories above. Consult a personal injury attorney to help clarify who is responsible for your injuries.