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Does a “Beware of Dog” Sign Impact an Owner’s Liability?

Posted on April 3, 2023 in Dog Bites

Generally, a “Beware of Dog” sign is not a guarantee against liability. The sign may warn visitors of the potential danger, but it does not absolve the owner of responsibility if their dog attacks or injures someone.

Dog Owner Liability in California

California law imposes strict liability on dog owners for injuries caused by their dog, regardless of whether or not the owner knew or should have known that the dog was likely to cause harm. This means the owner is responsible for any injuries caused by their dog, even if they took reasonable precautions to prevent an attack, such as putting up a “Beware of Dog” sign.

Furthermore, dog owners can also be held liable for injuries caused by their dogs if they were negligent in controlling or restraining them. The presence of a “Beware of Dog” sign may be seen as an acknowledgment that the dog is dangerous, and therefore the owner should take extra precautions to prevent harm. If an owner fails to take reasonable steps to protect others from their dog, such as keeping it on a leash, muzzling it, supervising it, or properly fencing in the dog, they may be found negligent and held liable for any injuries that occur.

Exceptions to California’s Strict Liability Law for Dog Bites

There are some exceptions to California’s dog bite law, including:

  • Trespassers: Dog owners are generally not liable for injuries caused by their dog to a trespasser on private property. However, if the owner knew or should have known that trespassers were likely on their property, they may still be held liable.
  • Provocation: If the injured person provoked the dog, the dog owner may not be held liable or only partially liable for any resulting injuries. However, the dog’s response must have been proportional to the provocation.
  • Police and Military Dogs: In some cases, police and military dogs may be exempt from strict liability if the dog was performing its duties at the time of the attack.

If the injured person was partially at fault for the attack, the dog owner’s liability might be reduced or eliminated under California’s pure comparative negligence law. For instance, the owner may argue that the sign gave rise to an assumption of risk. Meaning the victim ignored the sign and decided to still pet the dog, although they were aware of the potential risk of harm. This defense is unlikely though in California because the owner does not have to be aware of a dog’s tendency to cause harm to be liable.

How to Recover Compensation After a Dog Bite Injury

If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, you may be entitled to file a claim for your injuries. Here are some steps to take to recover compensation:

Seek Medical Attention

The first priority after a dog bite should be to seek medical attention. Even minor bites can become infected and cause serious health complications. Call 911 if you need to be taken to the hospital. Keep records of all medical treatment you receive, including doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, and medication prescriptions.

Identify the Dog and Its Owner

If possible, try to identify the dog and its owner. Get the owner’s contact information and any information they have about the dog’s vaccinations and history of aggressive behavior.

Report the Incident

Report the dog bite to your local animal control agency or law enforcement agency. They will investigate the incident and may take action to prevent future attacks.

Document the Scene

If you are not transported to the hospital immediately, take photos of the scene of the attack, including your injuries, the dog, and any property damage. This will help you build a strong case for compensation.

Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney

Contact a trusted Los Angeles Dog Bite Lawyer. They can help you understand your legal rights and options and can assist you in filing a claim for compensation.