Most people assume a homeowner is only liable if their dogs bite people who were invited onto the property, but this isn't necessarily true. Here are two instances when a homeowner may be liable for damages if their dog bites someone who was trespassing.
The Owner Knew the Dog was Dangerous
Most of the time, a homeowner wouldn't be held liable for injuries a trespasser sustains from a dog bite as long as the homeowner provided adequate notice there is a dog on the property who may be dangerous. For instance, a trespasser typically cannot sue for damages if there was a "Beware of Dog" sign posted in an obvious place and the dog was secured behind a fence. In this case, the courts would find the injured party knew of and accepted the risk they would be bitten when they trespassed.
However, in some states, such as Connecticut, a homeowner can be held liable for injuries to trespassers if the dog was known to be dangerous. If the dog had bitten someone before, for example, the homeowner could be held liable for future injuries to anyone including trespassers. The only exception to this rule, in some of these states, is if the dog is a guard dog whose sole duty is to protect the property.
Even if the homeowner didn't know the dog was dangerous, the person may still be held liable for dog bite injuries if the person injured had a right to be on the property regardless of whether the homeowner invited the person or not. Mail carriers are legally allowed to enter homeowners' properties to carry out their duties. If a dog bites a mail person who was working at the home, the homeowner may be required to pay for that person's damages and losses.
The Victim was a Child
Another time when a homeowner may be on the hook for injuries to a trespasser caused by their dog is when the trespasser is a child. This is due to attractive nuisance laws that state children under a certain age cannot fully appreciate the risks associated with their actions, so homeowners must take adequate precautions to prevent kids from accessing harmful areas on their properties.
If a homeowner knew or had reason to know children would access their property and they didn't put up a gate to keep kids out of their yard where their dog was playing and a child was attacked by said dog, for instance, the homeowner could be held liable for the child's injuries.
For more information about this issue or help with a dog bite case, contact a lawyer like those at the Law Office of Daniel E Goodman, LLC.