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Who is responsible when a dog bites a trespasser?

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2023 | Animal Bite Law

Generally speaking, a property owner is not expected to control a trespasser’s movements on their property. Consequently, they cannot guarantee a trespasser’s safety.

However, this does not explicitly exonerate the property owner from blame should a trespasser get hurt while on their property. There are instances when you can successfully file a premises liability claim, for example, if you are hurt by someone’s dog while you are technically trespassing on their property.

What duties do property owners owe?

Legally, trespassing refers to entering another person’s property without their consent or permission. Most of the time, property owners owe some degree of care, even to trespassers. This duty of care may be heightened in the event of “continuous” trespassing.

When people walk trespass on a property on a regular basis, say a footpath to a common space cuts through the property, then the property ought to expect continuous trespassing. As such, the property owner is required to warn about potential hazards, like an aggressive dog, that someone may encounter while trespassing on the property. An example of such a warning would be a “Beware of dogs” label at a clearly visible location like the property’s entrance.

The property owner cannot engage in a “willful and wanton” conduct

A property owner is deemed to have engaged in wanton conduct when their reckless indifference exposes a trespasser to injury. Willful conduct, on the other hand, refers to the property owner’s knowledge of the existence of a dangerous condition or hazard, like a ferocious dog, but then failing to take steps to restrain the animal.

Protecting your rights

Legal issues concerning dog-owner liability to a trespasser can be complicated, to say the least. Learning more about California’s dog bite laws with the assistance of a legal professional can help you to pursue justice if you are hurt while on someone else’s property, even if you weren’t there with their explicit permission.