Contractual Dog Bite Liability

In most cases in which a victim has been bitten by a dog, the dog owner is liable for any expenses incurred. However, a contract may serve to alter that liability or to reinforce it. Contracts are often written when dogs encounter a change in location or ownership, either temporarily or permanently. Contracts do not necessarily have to be written, but can be verbal or implied. However, contracts that are written are more easily provable and therefore may have more evidentiary value in a courtroom than non-written contracts.

Reasons for Dog Bite Contracts

Contracts may be written or otherwise exchanged when a dog is temporarily placed in another’s care. This may be the case with dog boarding services or other professional dog care, but can be used even in non-formal setting such as when a friend or neighbor is “dog sitting” while an owner is on vacation. In most cases, the person or business that is temporarily taking care of the dog will ask the owner to sign a contract stating that the owner will be liable for any dog bite incidents which occur while the dog is in the care of another. If a contract is not formed, the situation may dictate liability.

Assumed Risk

When a dog owner seeks professional help for a dog’s behavior or takes a dog to a vet, there is an assumed risk. In these cases, the dog owner may not be liable for dog bite injuries due to the assumed risk inherent in retraining a dog with behavioral issues or administering medical assistance to an injured or unwilling dog. If the business requires the dog owner to sign a contract assuming liability for dog bite injuries, however, the liability is deferred to the owner.

Rental Agreements

Dog bite injury claims are usually filed under homeowner’s insurance. However, if dog owners rent property from a landlord, the landlord may ultimately be held responsible for dog bite injuries when a claim is filed. Often this will turn on whether the landlord knew or should have known of the dog’s propensity to cause harm. Contractual Dog Bite Liability Limitations
Courts typically honor terms set in contracts regarding dog bite liability. However, courts may fail to honor these terms if a dog bite victim is affected or if the terms are contrary to public policy. In these cases, liability for the dog bite incident will typically defer to the owner of the dog, unless circumstances dictate otherwise.