Owning a dog is rewarding, but it can also come with risks. For example, if your dog bites somebody, you may find yourself facing some legal concerns. The good news is that you're not without some ways to defend yourself against a dog bite claim, even if it seems like the evidence is stacked up against you. Here are a few of the questions that your attorney may ask while creating your defense.
Did the Victim Provoke Your Dog?
In some situations, provocation can exempt you from liability in a dog bite case. When it comes to dogs, provocation can take on many forms. For example, if the victim was teasing or swinging at your dog, he or she may have caused the incident. You may also be exempt from liability if the other party stepped on your dog's tail or approached the dog in a threatening way.
This isn't always guaranteed, though. If your dog is known for being aggressive or skittish around others, that may make it more difficult for you to claim provocation. In those cases, the court may say that you neglected to warn the victim adequately. In addition, some states won't allow for a provocation claim if your dog bites a child.
Did the Victim Know Your Dog Was a Threat?
If the victim knew your dog and was already clearly aware that your dog could bite, you may not be liable if it happens. You may even be able to use this defense if your property is clearly marked with aggressive dog signs or other similar warnings. This is also a viable defense in cases where the victim is a dog walker or a groomer, but only if you can show that the individual was aware that your dog could be aggressive. Most courts require documentation of a long-term relationship with you and your pet in those situations.
In situations where the victim clearly knows your dog or you have marked your property to indicate that your dog is aggressive, the courts may assign a level of responsibility to the victim. In that case, any financial award you may be required to give to the victim will be reduced in accordance with how much responsibility the courts assign to him or her. As an example, in cases where the victim is determined to be at least thirty percent responsible, any determined financial award will be reduced by thirty percent in the court's judgement.
Was the Victim Authorized to Be There?
Another viable defense for a dog bite case is trespassing or other unauthorized activity. If the victim wasn't allowed to be on your property, didn't have your permission to be near your dog or was breaking and entering, he or she may not have a legal claim if your dog bites. Although not all states have laws to protect pet owners from things like this, most do. Your lawyer will help you understand what protections your state offers for things like this. If your state does have laws in place for this, you'll just need to prove that the individual wasn't authorized to be there. Video from home surveillance cameras are great for this.
As you can see, even if your dog bites someone, there isn't a guarantee that you'll be found liable. With the information here and the help of a skilled dog bite attorney for your defense, you might be able to reduce the settlement or even have the case dismissed entirely. Talk to an attorney today about your situation for advice about how to proceed. He or she will assess the evidence of the situation, including any police reports and witness statements, and then help you determine the most reasonable defense for the situation.