Are You Liable if You Have a Beware of Dog Sign?
Posted in Personal Injury on August 28, 2019
Dangerous dogs are a constant liability for pet owners. As the owner of a dog with vicious propensities in Alabama, the pet is your legal responsibility. Failing to prevent a dog bite with knowledge of the dog’s violent history or tendencies is an act of negligence that could force you to pay for the victim’s damages. Even if you were not negligent, Alabama’s dog bite law may hold you responsible. Many owners believe posting Beware of Dog signs limit or eliminate their liability for the dog’s actions. In Alabama, this is not the case.
Pet Owner Liability in Alabama
If you live in Alabama, posting a Beware of Dog sign offers no protection at all from liability if your dog bites someone. While the sign may warn people to stay off your property and prevent dog attacks, if your dog does bite someone, the sign will not protect you from liability. The victim will still be able to hold you legally responsible for the attack if certain elements exist.
- The victim had lawfully entered your property or was on public property
- The victim did not provoke the dog attack
- The attack happened on your property, or a place nearby after the dog chased the victim
If these three elements exist, the law will hold you strictly liable for damages. Strict liability means the victim will not have to prove you were aware you had a vicious or dangerous dog or that you were negligent in keeping the dog. It will not matter if you did everything you reasonably should have to prevent the attack. You will still be liable if your dog caused injuries and the victim did not trespass or provoke your pet.
Defenses to Pet Owner Liability for an Attack
Alabama’s dog bite law has a unique stipulation that gives a pet owner a potential defense. If you can prove you had no reason to believe your dog was capable of violence, the courts may not hold you liable. In this case, you may still have to pay for the victim’s actual expenses, but not any additional damages for losses such as pain and suffering. Having a Beware of Dog sign could actually hurt your case against liability in Alabama since it may serve as proof that you did in fact know your dog could be violent or dangerous.
Instead of posting a Beware of Dog sign, consider putting up a No Trespassing sign. A No Trespassing sign could reduce your liability better than one that says Beware of Dog since trespassing is a stronger defense in a dog bite case. If the attack occurred off your property because your dog chased someone away, this could be evidence of trespassing. You may be able to convince a judge or jury that your dog would not have chased the person had he or she not been on your property to begin with.
If you or your lawyer can show the victim did not have permission to be on your property at the time of the attack, you will not owe any compensation. Trespassing eliminates any duties of care you owe to the property visitor. You will therefore not bear any legal responsibility if your dog attacks the trespasser. Another possible defense in a case against your dog is that the victim instigated the attack. If the person trespassed, purposefully made the dog angry or hurt the dog before the incident, he or she may not have a case against you.
Provoking the attack will bar you from liability for the dog bite. Proving someone provoked your dog may take eyewitness accounts, character statements from people who know your dog or an expert’s testimony. Defending your case with help from a Dog Bite attorney in Birmingham could enable you to avoid paying for someone’s medical bills and other damages, as well as prevent your dog from receiving a “dangerous” label. This label could expose you to greater liability for dog attacks in the future.