Dog parks can be wonderful places for dog owners to socialize their pets. Unfortunately, dogs can be unpredictable -- especially when in new and unfamiliar places -- and this sometimes results in visitors being bitten by other visitors' dogs. If you have been bitten in a dog park, who is at fault? The answer depends. Here's a look at the factors a judge will consider when determining who responsible for the bills related to your injuries.
You might be at fault if:
When you choose to partake in a certain activity that is known to have possible risks associated with it, you're generally said to have "assumed the risk." In this situation, what that means is that you must have been aware that a dog bite was a possibility when visiting the dog park -- but you chose to visit anyways. You went there to take advantage of the open space for your pet and let him or her socialize, thereby taking advantage of the same conditions that led to your injuries. Therefore, the default in most dog bite cases in dog parks is that you are at fault for your own injuries that were sustained there. If the dog park has signs with verbiage such as "use at your own risk" or "dog park is not liable for injuries," this strengthens the argument for the fault falling on you.
The other owner may be at fault if:
There are, however, some exceptions to the injured party being named at fault for their own injuries. If the injury occurred because the other dog's owner was not adhering to dog park rules, then the dog's owner may be at fault for your injuries.
For example, if the rules posted at the entrance of the park clearly state that intact male dogs are not allowed, and you are bitten by an intact male dog, then that dog's owner may be named at fault. You, as a responsible user of the dog park, did not assume the risk of dealing with an intact male dog when you entered the park, since that dog's presence is against the rules. The same would be true if the rules prohibited dogs over a certain size and a dog over that limit bit you, or if the rules said dogs must be leashed in a certain area, and you were bitten by an unleashed dog in that area.
The dog park may be at fault if:
The dog park does have a responsibility of taking reasonable action to enforce its rules. If you and your lawyer can prove that your injury was the direct result of the dog park's negligence in enforcing the rules, then the dog park itself (or its owners) may be named at fault for your bite.
Negligence to enforce the rules can be difficult to establish, since many dog parks do not have staff on site. For example, if a visitor brings in a 150 pound dog even though the weight limit is 80 pounds, but there are no dog park staff members on site to know about it, then the park can't be held liable for the issue.
However, there are times when it is possible to prove that a dog park owner knew about a problem and did nothing to fix it, thereby leading to your injuries. For instance, say a certain owner has been bringing a dog of a prohibited breed into the park every Tuesday at 7 pm and several other visitors have called the dog park staff to inform them of this, yet the dog park has done nothing to enforce its rules and keep that dog from coming back. Then, the dog park may be liable if that dog bites someone. They knew it was a problem, yet they did nothing about it.
Determining who is at fault when a dog bite happens in a dog park can be tricky. Share as many details of the incident as possible with your personal injury attorney. He or she will help you determine whether you have a strong case against the dog's owner or the dog park, or if you're liable for your own injury. For more information, consider a firm like Charles Aaron PLC.