Simply having a “Beware of Dog” sign does not necessarily protect a dog owner from liability for dog bite injuries.
If you have been bitten by a dog, the owner may point to the “Beware of Dog” sign on their door or fence and say your injury is all your fault. However, it is very important to realize that this may not be the whole story.
Here is what you need to know about “Beware of Dog” signs and dog bite injuries in California.
- The “Beware of Dog” sign is not as helpful here as in other states.
In some states, owners are only liable for dog bites if the victim can prove that the dog had a history of biting or was known to be dangerous or vicious. Some victims try to point to the “Beware of Dog” sign as evidence that the owner knew their dog posed a danger. However, this tactic is of dubious effectiveness, since it is actually common practice for people to post a sign to deter potential burglars or trespassers, even if their dog is a cuddly coward.
In California, we do not really need to worry about this possible use of the sign at all, because California state law holds owners strictly liable for their dogs’ actions. There is no need to prove that the dog was known to be dangerous in order to secure compensation for a dog bite injury.
- The “Beware of Dog” sign could be used against you.
One possible defense that a dog owner might mount against a dog bite injury claim is assumption of risk. The idea here is that the victim actually willingly and knowingly took on the risk of interacting with the dog and the owner is therefore not responsible for the end result of that interaction. Having a sign posted on a fence or door could certainly help support an assumption of risk defense for bites incurred by visitors to the property. However, the sign does not protect the owner if it is illegible or poorly placed or if a defect in the fence allows the dog to reach through and bite someone passing innocently by on the sidewalk.
- A “Beware of Dog” sign could open up the possibility of property owner liability.
If you were bitten by a dog that escaped from its yard, the property owner (such as a landlord) and the dog owner could both be liable. However, it would be necessary to show that the property owner knowingly harbored the dog and did not take proper measures to restrain or confine it. The presence of a sign could certainly help establish knowledge of the dog’s presence. When pursuing a dog bite injury case, it is important to consider all possible sources of compensation because property owners may have more applicable insurance than individual dog owners.
- You will need an experienced dog bite injury attorney on your side.
Following any type of dog bite injury, it is wise to consult a skilled attorney such as Fernando D. Vargas. Attorney Vargas can advise you of your rights and options under the law and work hard to maximize your compensation.