As much as we love our added members of the family, it’s important to understand what we are legally responsible for when it comes to our pets.
Am I liable for an injury caused by my pet?
Since pets are personal property, in almost all states, owners are held responsible for any damages caused by them; including injuries. This typically ends up involving medical bills. In some extreme cases, you may even be held responsible for any emotional damage caused by your pet (even if it was as base level as inciting fear in someone) so be sure to check the statues of your state.
This can seem troubling to many pet owners considering that while pets can be well trained, there are always moments of unpredictability with them as well.
Are there any solid defenses?
- “Assumption of risk,” occurs when the alleged victim entered into a situation where there was foreseeable risk and therefore cannot hold you entirely responsible due to their previous knowledge (potential example: posting of “beware of the dog” signs).
- “Contributory negligence,” occurs when the alleged victim in fact contributed to their own harm and will only leave you partially at fault (potential example: someone stealing a treat from your pet would be contributorily negligent for not acting responsibly).
- “Provocation,” is one of the most common defenses and occurs when the alleged victim provoked the animal and therefore is the direct cause of their own harm.
When is it time to call my lawyer?
It can feel nerve-wracking to get a lawyer involved in a pet injury case, but sometimes this is your best option. If your pet caused any physical harm then you absolutely should get a lawyer involved. Outside of this, it’s still wise to consult a lawyer. They will know all of the statutes for your area and can give you sound council throughout the process making sure you’re aware of all that’s occurring every step of the way. Hopefully nothing will ever come to this level, but it’s better to be on the offensive side so that you can move everything along as quickly and smoothly as possible.