Landlord Liability for Dog Bites - Shook & Stone

Landlord Liability for Dog Bites

Landlord Liability for Dog Bites

Typically, when approaching an issue involving Landlord Liability, being bitten by a dog may not be the first situation that comes to mind.  Although it is possible that the injury from a dog bite could be minor, there are instances where a dog bite can result in major medical expenses.

In fact, based on a report by the Insurance Information Institute’s Dog Bite Liability report, the average dog bite payment was as high as $33,230 as recent as 2016.  If you ever find yourself in this type of situation, it is best to speak with a personal injury attorney who can best guide you on what steps to take.

When can a Landlord be Liable for a Dog Bite?

Most landlords will hesitate when deciding to rent to dog owners specifically because of the potential of the dog biting someone.  However, there are some protections offered to Landlords which could reduce their liability if a bite were to occur.

Most renter’s insurance covers dog bites; however, the landlord must ensure that the person renting carries such a policy.  It is also important to note that most insurance companies use the “one bite” rule.  This rule is a common tool used to argue against liability for a dog bite given the rule states that the dog owner is not liable for the first time a dog bite someone.  Liability only becomes an issue if the dog has already bitten someone, and the owner was aware that such an event could happen.

Although each state can vary, looking at this topic through the lens of Nevada law it is very similar to that of the “one bite” rule.  If the landlord knew that a dog owned by a tenant was dangerous and did not take any steps to remove the animal from the premises, there is potential liability.

One important factor to keep in mind is Nevada does not have a specific statute relating to dog bites which means that each case will be different.  Here are some situations to look out for:

  • The dog belonged to the landlord. This applies in states that have a dog bite statute.
  • The landlord was harboring the dog. This applies in states that have a dog bite statute that covers harborers in addition to dog owners.
  • The landlord owned or harbored the dog and knew or should have known that it was vicious. This is the law in all states.
  • The landlord knew or should have known that the dog was vicious and that it either lived or was harbored on the landlord’s property. The landlord was not an owner or harborer of the dog. Exception: in California the landlord had to know that the dog was vicious; “should have known” is not the law in California.
  • The landlord knew or should have known that (a) the dog was owned or harbored by someone on the landlord’s property, (b) the dog was of sufficient size to cause injuries if it got off the property, (c) the fences and gates of the property were defective and a dog could penetrate them, and (d) the dog would not have gotten off the property and the accident would not have happened if the landlord had properly fixed the fences and gates.
  • The landlord did something else which was unlawful or negligent and caused the accident to happen.

If the landlord did not own or harbor the dog, the fourth and fifth grounds (above) will create liability only if the landlord had the legal right and enough time to either impose conditions of confinement on the dog or evict the tenant.

What Should I do After a Dog Bite Injury?

If you’ve been injured by a dog bite, take the following steps to protect your rights to compensation:

  • If possible, try to locate the dog’s owner to notify them of your injuries and get the owner’s contact information.
  • Take photos of any relevant details, such as a broken fence that may have allowed the dog to escape, as well as photos of your injuries.
  • File a report with local police or local animal control officers.
  • Get examined by a physician as soon as possible after the dog bite to begin treating your injuries (including preventive measures if the dog’s vaccination history is not known, especially for rabies).
  • Be sure to follow all treatment recommendations and instructions and follow up with your doctor if bite wounds begin to show signs of infection.
  • Keep copies of all invoices, bills, and receipts from any expenses you incur in treating your injuries. Also keep records of pay stubs or income statements if you miss time from work while recovering from your injuries.

Finally, speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer will be able to investigate your case and gather the proof necessary to build a strong claim for compensation for you. If you have suffered a dog bite and would like to speak with an attorney call us at (702) 570-0000