Is The Landlord Responsible for The Dog That Bit Me?

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California is a no free bite state. Meaning the owner of the dog is responsible for the dog bite, provided the individual that was bitten was not trespassing and had a right to where the dog bite took place. A common mistake by most consumers is that there is liability to a property owner for all accidents taking place on their property. This is an incorrect assumption regardless of what type of accident it is, including dog bites.
A property owner is not automatically liable when a dog bites on their property. The dog owner is liable where the victim has done nothing wrong. The same is not true of the landlord where the dog owner is renting or leasing property. The landlord’s liability can only arise if the landlord knew there was a dangerous dog with propensity to bite. If the landlord has no knowledge of the dog or dog’s propensity to bite, the landlord cannot be held responsible. Homeowner insurance polices often have what is called medpay or medical payments. This means medical expenses can be covered up to a fixed amount. If the medpay is $5,000, then medical bills are covered up to that amount. Medpay works regardless of fault, but liability coverage is different and only applies when there is fault.
Liability insurance will not cover a tenant when the landlord does not having any knowledge of the dog or their propensity to bite. The tenant owning the dog is responsible, but the problem in these cases, is that tenants generally own little or nothing and have no means to pay. This makes it difficult for dog bite attorneys to accept these cases. The problem being that after the dog bite attorney is done with his work, another attorney is needed to start collection efforts. This in turn may cost 20-40% of the gross recovery. When adding the total costs of pursuing a dog bite case when the dog owner has no insurance the victim may be left with nothing. If the tenant happens to have a good income or assets and the injuries are severely then there is likely that the dog owner will get sued. The same is not true when the case is relatively small as it will be to expensive to collect. Some firms are very aggressive and pursue dog bite injury claims after obtaining a judgment, often obtaining wage garnishments, but this is not the case for small injury claims. Similarly when the dog owner is relatively low income, it will also be too expensive to pursue, and the monthly wage garnishment may be too small to ever pay the damages.
A lot of victims calling dog bite attorneys are disappointed when the attorney declines to accept the case. The reason is rarely given, but more often than not, it is due to economics. It is economically unfeasible to pursue it. The dog owner is not necessarily let off the hook, just because they are low income and have no insurance. The property owner is not responsible for the tenant’s dog, but often the landlord is sued when the tenant owns a dog and no renter’s insurance. A smart landlord would require the tenant maintain renter’s insurance to protect against potential liability.
When the landlord is sued, it may turn out that the landlord has no liability, but the fact that the landlord has been sued will result in the tenant getting evicted. This might not be the only problem for the tenant, this maybe only the beginning of problems for the tenant owning the dog.
Criminal laws are separate from civil laws. A tenant owning a dog may be fined or jailed for the harm the dog causes. The dog may have been trained to attack in which case there may be serious punishment to the dog owner, including jail. The dog might not be licensed which may result in fines. There may be a combination of factors which can result in serious problems often turning into fines and jail. The dog likewise may suffer the most. When dogs have bitten two or more times, they may be put down. Dogs often bite because of how they have been trained and socialized, or because neither of these things has taken place. The dog is another victim often put down, because of an uncaring dog owner.

June 24, 2017 |
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