As a dog owner, you probably know how important it is to keep your pet contained so the animal doesn't get loose and cause problems in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, those problems can land right on your doorstep, especially if there are children in the neighborhood. Even if someone trespasses on your property, you could still be held liable if your dog bites the individual.
A trespasser is defined as someone who enters your property without your permission. Most states have laws absolving homeowners from liability for dog bites if the injured persons were on properties without the owners' consent. For example, in Connecticut, the injured party could not collect compensation for being bitten by a dog if the person was trespassing or committing a tort at the time (e.g. vandalizing the property).
However, a homeowner's consent to be on the property can be inferred in certain situations and conferred to certain individuals. Postal workers, police, firefighters, and similar public employees are automatically given consent to be on a homeowner's property when they are performing their official duties. So if your dog bites the mail carrier as he or she is putting mail in your box, you could be held liable for the injury.
Implied consent can be inferred if you don't have any barriers to entry (e.g. a locked gate) to your property. In this situation, it can be argued that you have given the public an implied invitation to enter your property for common errands such as to solicit sales or donations, ask for directions, or to talk to you about converting to another religion. You could also be held liable to bites in this situation, especially if there are no signs warning visitors that there is a dog on the property.
If you can reasonably expect someone to be on your property, you can generally expect to be liable for any injuries the person sustains while he or she is there.
Another issue you run into is with children and attractive nuisances. An attractive nuisance is defined as an appealing item that a child would find enticing but is dangerous to the child if he or she were to come into contact with it.
One common type of attractive nuisance is an unattended, uncovered swimming pool. Even though a child may have trespassed on your property to get to your pool, you will be held responsible if the child is injured as a result because it is believed that children do not yet possess the presence of mind to withstand the temptation—or understand the dangers—the situation presented.
Dogs are a powerful attractant to children, especially puppies and little dogs. Therefore, you should expect a child to attempt to enter your property to interact with your pet. Regrettably, having 'Beware of Dog' signs won't absolve you of liability in the event the child is bitten, either, if the child is not yet old enough to read.
Reducing your liability for dog bite injuries on your property is relatively simple. One thing you can do, of course, is to secure your pet. For outdoor dogs, this typically means keeping the animal on a chain or leash or placing the dog in a fenced off area. Putting up signs notifying visitors there is a dog on the property is also important.
Another thing you can do is erect a fence with a lockable gate and no solicitation signs at the entry to your property to eliminate any implied invitation to the public. While you'll likely still get uninvited people entering your property, you'll at least have a viable legal defense against any personal injury lawsuit someone may bring in the event of a dog bite.
For more tips on protecting yourself from liability for dog bites or help with defending a court case, contact a personal injury attorney online at a site like http://www.hvlawfirm.com.