Dog bite laws and how owners can be accountable for an attack vary between states. In both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, dog owners are strictly liable for bites, meaning that there are very few, if any, circumstances where an owner will be able to escape the legal consequences of an attack made by their dog.
Trespassing is one of these, but there are still a lot of barriers that owners face when trying to prove that a dog bite victim was illegally on their property at the time of the attack. Here’s what to know and if having a “beware of dog” sign posted can absolve owners of responsibility for injuries their animal causes.
Trespassing & Dog Attacks
Rarely, an owner may be relieved of legal responsibility for their dog’s attack if the person who was bitten was trespassing at the time of the incident. For example, if a burglar enters the property at night with the intent to break into the home and they are bitten by a dog, the owner may not be considered the at-fault party in this case.
Whether or not the owner has “no trespassing” or “beware of dog” signs posted or not, if someone has unlawfully entered the dog’s territory, the owner may be able to use this as a potential defense in a victim’s dog bite claim.
But because of strict liability laws, the owner has a heavy burden of proof to show that the victim was on the property illegally at the time. If the owner had “beware of dog” signs displayed, this can help them make their case, but it’s not necessary for the claim to be successful.
What If There’s A Sign & The Victim Was There Lawfully?
If a person was authorized to be on a dog owner’s property, having a “beware of dog” sign posted will not change the fact that the owner is responsible for the injuries their animal causes. Whether or not their dog is known to be dangerous, owners must keep their dogs confined, leashed, or otherwise controlled while other people are lawfully on the property.
For example, if someone’s dog bites a mail delivery person while they are delivering packages to the owner, the owner is responsible for the attack regardless of whether or not they had a sign posted. The mail person is allowed to be there and is performing a job and service, so the onus is on the owner to keep their dog controlled during this time. The same goes for electricians and other service providers that enter the home.
What If The Dog Escaped Confinement?
If a dog is adequately confined at the time someone is legally visiting the property, and the dog escapes and attacks someone, it may be possible for the owner to make a case that they did everything possible to prevent a bite from occurring and shouldn’t be held responsible. This would be incredibly difficult for them to do, but if the owner has a good attorney and a judge is willing to listen, it could create a problem for your case.
Say the dog’s owner has video evidence of them placing their dog in an appropriate kennel and can prove that they fastened the kennel correctly. And, say there’s proof that the structure should have been adequate to contain the dog, such as being embedded into the ground and having reinforced sides and a closed top.
In this rare-but-possible scenario, an owner may be able to dodge accountability for a bite and the victim would then need to pursue compensation from the manufacturer of the defective kennel. That said, the law is not on the side of owners in Massachusetts or New Hampshire though, so it would be an uphill battle. But with the right resources, a dog owner can be successful.
How To Get Help Holding A Dog Owner Responsible After An Attack
If you or a family member were attacked or bitten by a dog, don’t wait to get experienced legal help to start pursuing the full and fair compensation you deserve for your injuries and other losses you’ve incurred.
Call our Salem, MA office at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084 or contact us via our short online form and our team will get back to you as quickly as we can to answer your questions or book your free initial consultation with one of our veteran New Hampshire and Massachusetts dog bite lawyers.