Who Is the Dog Owner?

While “who is the dog owner?” seems like a fairly obvious question, with a fairly obvious answer, in many instances, from a legal standpoint, it may not be that cut and dry. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. You are invited to a BBQ at a friend’s house and are bitten by a dog that does not belong to your friend but another guest.  While not technically the dog’s owner, your friend who is hosting the BBQ unwittingly just became party to the liability for the actions of the dog because they allowed the dog to be present during the BBQ taking place at your residence.
  2. You agree to walk your neighbor’s dog while they are away on vacation. On your daily walk the dog gets excited when it sees a squirrel and jerks the leash out of your hand running into a park full of playing children. The dog knocks a small child down who in turn gets injured. While not the owner, you were acting as the “custodian” of the dog at the time of the incident and are now party to the liability for the actions of the dog.
  3. In the above scenario, assume the dog gets excited and bites one of the children and does not have a current rabies vaccination; now you and the dog owner are liable with respect to different actions.
  4. In the same scenario of you watching your neighbor’s dog, what happens if the dog bites you? Nothing; you agreed to assume the risk by agreeing to watch the dog. Unless you can prove that the dog had a history of aggression that the owner did not inform you of, you cannot recover for your injuries and/or damages.
  5. Your adult child moves back into your home brings their 120 pound Rottweiler but you do not know that your insurance company requires additional insurance premiums to keep this “high risk” bread. Who is responsible if the dog bites someone in the home? Who is responsible if the dog bites someone in the street?
  6. Does a veterinarian have any liability if they know a dog is aggressive?

As you can see the scenarios and possibilities are endless. If you have been bitten by a dog, don’t assume that there is only one responsible party. Depending on the circumstances there can be a chain of people responsible for the dog’s actions which could have been preventable at a number of junctures. This is why an experienced dog bite attorney should help you determine what your legal options are and the course of action you want to take.

Before you discuss your case with an attorney you should document everything you can remember about the incident. Details you may think are insignificant can prove to be critical to your claim at a later date. The more time that passes after an attack, the more details will be forgotten. Make note of everything that led up to the incident; were you playing with the dog, were there any loud noises such as fireworks, did the dog give any warning before biting, anything that was said by you and the owner of the dog after the attack, along with any witness information.

A record should be kept of the nature and extent of all injuries and any pain or symptoms you may be having as a result of your injuries. A good method to accomplish this is to purchase a separate calendar to keep track of your doctor’s visits and document your symptoms in one place. It can be a wall or pocket calendar, or something as simple as a printout from your computer.

Finally, make sure to keep copies of everything, including all costs associated with the injury. Those costs may include loss of wages, special services, or necessary after-care. Also, get copies of all of your doctor’s records every time you have an appointment. This cannot be stressed enough. It will save enormous amounts of time, energy, and expense rather than you or your attorney having to do it at a later date. Keep these and the corresponding medical bills together in a folder or large binder.

If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, or other vicious animal, through no fault of your own, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney before accepting a settlement from the insurance company. Robert Edens offers an honest, no obligation, free consultation. He will evaluate the facts of your case, review any settlement that an insurance company has offered you or tell you how you can handle the case yourself if his services are unnecessary. Call 847-395-2200 or click here to schedule your appointment for a free consultation.

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