Are You Liable If Your Dog Bites A Trespasser?

Homeowners are typically responsible for any injury that happens on their property, and this can extend to trespassers in certain situations. If your dog bit somebody that was trespassing on your property, you may still be liable for the damages they suffered.

Who is Considered A Trespasser?

Whether or not someone is considered a trespasser will have a big impact on if you are liable or not, as there are different standards of care that apply to trespassers.

Anybody who enters your property unlawfully is a trespasser, but remember that simply stepping foot onto your property is not enough to call them a trespasser. They might have permission that is implied, such as approaching your front door if you don't have locking gates surrounding your yard, or allowing solicitors by not having anti-soliciting signage.

Do You Owe A Trespasser Standard of Care?

The legal term standard of care means how much caution, prudence, and attentiveness a typical person would use when in a certain circumstance. In this case, the circumstance would be dog ownership. Not exercising a reasonable standard of care means that you could be found negligent for your dog's actions and have to pay for damages. In general, trespassers are owed a lower amount of care than a non-trespasser, but there are still standards that must be met.

Some examples of what a homeowner could do to demonstrate a reasonable standard of care towards a potential trespasser includes:

  • putting up beware of dog signs to let people know you have a dog on your property.
  • keeping your backyard completely enclosed.
  • clearly marking invisible fence boundaries.

What Is Dangerous Propensity?

If your dog shows characteristics that make it seem like they would harm a person, your dog has a dangerous propensity. That means that you must take special care with ensuring your dog cannot harm another person, or else you could be found liable if a trespasser is bitten. Certain breeds can cause a dog to be considered to have a dangerous propensity as well.

Exceptions to this rule would be if you have taken extreme measures to contain your dog. This includes chaining your dog up in your yard, or keeping the dog in a fenced off kennel.

An example of when dangerous propensity could apply is if you have a violent breed of dog that roams free in your fenced off backyard. If a neighbor's child trespasses into your yard to retrieve a ball that went over the fence, and the child is bitten, you could be found responsible for the dog bite. If you took additional steps to contain your dog with a chain, and the child still went within range of your dog's chain to retrieve their ball, that may show that enough care was taken, and liability would be absolved.

If you are being sued for damages related to a trespasser that was bitten by a dog, you should definitely work with a lawyer such as Dallas Laird to give yourself the best chance of winning your case.