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Is the Dog Owner Liable for an Injury When a Dog Bites a Trespasser?

The reality is that all property owners can usually be held liable for any injuries or losses that occur on their property. This is because a property owner has a duty of care to all visitors who enter their property and must take reasonable steps to ensure safety for their visitors. However, under very specific circumstances, a property owner may actually have to extend this duty of care to non-invitees, such as trespassers.

Below, we will discuss the legal considerations of a trespasser who is bitten by a dog while on your property. If you have suffered a dog bite, our qualified dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are always here to answer any questions you may have about dog bite claims and available damages.

To schedule a free consultation, please contact our 24/7 legal team by calling (213) 927-3700 or filling out our quick contact form.

Who Counts as a Trespasser?

A trespasser is someone who is neither allowed nor invited onto someone’s property. Unlike an invitee or licensee, who have the greatest duty of care owed to them, a trespasser has very little owed to them. Please be mindful of the fact that just because someone enters a property without being invited does not necessarily mean they are automatically a trespasser. A classic example would be a solicitor or salesperson who enters a property without permission when there is no locked gate. 

Property Owner’s Duty of Care 

According to California Civil Code 1714(a): “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”

As mentioned, all property owners have a duty of care to reasonably maintain their premises. A duty of care for a property owner essentially encompasses any actions that a reasonable property owner should take or should have taken in similar circumstances. It’s also important to understand that a property owner’s duty of care may vary depending on who is on their property. Also, there are situations where an injured individual contributed negligence towards causing an accident. In such cases, liability may be shared between the property owner and the injured individual. 

Duty of Care and Trespassers  

A property owner only owes reasonable care to a trespasser. This means that a property owner will not typically be held liable for any injuries or losses sustained by a trespasser if conditions were reasonably safe on that property. Important considerations will include determining what any other reasonable property owner would do in similar circumstances, and also, whether or not a property owner in question, at the very least, met the standard.

Actions that fall under reasonable care are straightforward and include making sure there are no obvious dangers on a property. It also means providing warnings about any potential hazards. This duty of care extends to hazards that are reasonably foreseeable, such as animal attacks.

Exceptions

As mentioned, since a trespasser is not owed a duty of care, there will be very few circumstances in which a property owner will be held liable for any injuries caused to them. As it relates to dog bites, a property owner may be held liable for injuries and losses caused to a trespasser if that homeowner was already aware that the dog in question had dangerous tendencies. However, these dangerous tendencies need to be directed specifically at other people, and not other animals. 

Certain dog breeds, such as pitbulls, are already thought of as hazardous. The dog breed in question may play a role in determining liability for a property owner. 

Exceptions to the Exceptions

There is a very rare scenario that may be an exception to the exception. If a dog owner was aware that their dog was dangerous, yet took reasonable safety measures, a trespasser will almost certainly not be entitled to any damages for their losses. Let’s say that a dangerous dog was chained up, but the trespasser, fully aware of the dog, still places themselves at a risk of being bitten. That trespasser will most likely not be entitled to anything. This is a very unusual scenario, but it can happen.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help 

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a dog bite, our expert dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Contact us today by calling (213) 927-3700 or filling out our quick contact form to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.

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