Landlord Responsibilities vs Tenants’ Dogs: Can They be Held Liable for a Dog Bite?

by Lisa Coleman on July 25, 2013

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(US law & generally) Dog bites occur more often than many people realize and there are legal consequences for liability. Ultimate liability in a personal injury claim resulting from a dog bite is determined by the case particulars. Also included as material fact can be any clauses included in the tenant lease or property agreement. Leasing and renting are not legally identical, as renting does not always include an authorization document other than the rental receipt. Responsibilities of the landlord and tenant can be spelled out discreetly in the lease agreement, but breach of lease can be claimed by either party in any given circumstance.

The Importance of an Attorney in a Dog Bite Claim

If there is a lease contract for tenancy, then contract law can also be involved and cases can be complicated. Retaining an attorney may be an absolute necessity for all parties if a lease is material fact in the case. Any insurance company that may be involved will surely have a team of attorneys investigating for claim denial, so the novice injured victim is at a clear disadvantage. This is especially true if the landlord has significant resources and political connection. The victim needs an effective personal injury attorney who is experienced in negotiating with insurance companies, as well as understanding lease laws that may apply to the case. In many cases, the tenant can actually be the victim. Case particulars can be important.

Landlord Negligence

This is the primary legal area where landlords can become liable. Landlords must comply with all rental laws, including upkeep of property and responsibility for their own animals. Common situations that may create liability for the landlord can be bad fence maintenance or repairs to dog kennels or shelters. Tenants commonly live in property near the actual landlord and they interact with each other regularly. There is also a distinct possibility that both the tenant and the landlord are liable, especially with cases of significant negligence. Landlords are required to provide reasonable duty of care measures for any damage that occurs on their property, even if a lease stipulates no responsibility for dog bites. For this reason, many landlords do not allow tenants to have animals, and a tenant with an unapproved dog is clearly at fault if the dog bites any individual.

Filing a Claim

A dog bite injury victim should never attempt filing a legal case themselves. Dog bite injury cases are normally defended vigorously by any insurance company, and a landlord may possibly retaliate with filing an eviction notice. All parties involved may need an attorney to unravel what actually happened and present their particular cases to the court for adjudication. It is important to remember that the court determines who is actually responsible based on applicable laws and negligence is not restricted to one party, so having a local attorney knowledgeable in personal injury law and contract law to find possible respondents can be beneficial. For example, if a person living in Charleston, SC is bitten by a dog that escaped through the backyard fence of a leased townhouse, then a landlord may possibly be held liable. In order for the victim of the dog bite to find out their rights, contacting an injury accident attorney in Charleston SC would be ideal. A local accident attorney would be knowledgeable about all local and state laws for such a case.

Dog bite injuries are often sustained from vicious attacks and can create long-term medical issues that must be calculated in any settlement award. Many cases require skin graphs and surgery, as well as leaving permanent scaring. Any additional claims can be included in compensatory awards for pain and suffering without a punitive damage assessment, but the calculation is much more accurate when an experienced personal injury lawyer with considerable dog bite case experience does the evaluation based on claim acceptability.

Maximizing a dog bite claim requires solid representation, as it is a sad fact that many dog bites occur with no legal negligence being established. There are always multiple legal avenues for defending the claim and an experienced attorney can effectively combat responsibility denial.

Freelance legal writer Lisa Coleman shares information about when a landlord may be held liable for a dog attack on their property. Howell and Christmas LLC, an injury and accident attorney in Charleston SC, is experienced and equipped to represent a client who has been a victim of a dog attack on someone’s rental property in the Charleston, SC area.

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