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Dog Bites, The Law And Landlord Liability

By Expert Author: R. Klettke

Landlords Can Bear Liability for Tenants’ Dogs That Bite

If a tenant’s dog is dangerous and that dog causes injury to others, the landlord might bear legal responsibility. A personal injury attorney should investigate it.

The effects of serious dog bites can be devastating for all involved. The victim may suffer injuries that are disfiguring, costly and leave permanent physical and emotional scars. The dog may need to be destroyed. The owner of the dog might face criminal charges if the dog had shown previous vicious and dangerous behavior, and might be found liable for the victim’s losses in a civil lawsuit. In some circumstances, the landlord might also be found liable in court if the victim works with a skilled dog bite lawyer

How can a landlord be responsible if the tenant failed to prevent the dog from attacking another person or animal? There are two circumstances under which a landlord can be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog:

1. If the landlord knew the dog was dangerous. The court rulings on this have generally been in circumstances where the landlord was clearly aware of a tenant’s dog being dangerous and that there were incidents in the past where the dog had caused injury to others. But the landlord is protected if the dog simply barks or growls at passerby while confined (such behavior does not meet the legal definition of vicious or dangerous unless an attack occurs).

2. If the landlord failed to address property defects that allow the dog to escape the premises and consequently an attack occurred. If, for example, a garden gate had a dysfunctional closure mechanism that allowed the dog to escape and attack someone off the premises, that is something a personal injury lawyer can cite as a factor contributing to his or her client-plaintiff’s injuries.

California law defines a dangerous dog as one that has had previous incidents of unprovoked attacks (two in the previous 36 months). An attack meets the legal definition of “vicious” when there is a laceration, muscle tears or if multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery are required to address the wound.

The very fact that a landlord can be held liable and forced to pay out large sums if he loses in court makes it vital that any property owner make certain that he is covered for this type of lawsuit in his property insurance.

If you have been the victim of a dog attack, contact a dog bite attorney soon after the incident. Be sure to get immediate medical care to address your injuries as well as to create medical documentation.

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