Can You Sue for Dog Bites Under Beware of Dog Sign Law?

January 29, 2024by Cassandra Nguy

Yes. Whether or not there was a Beware of Dog sign, you can still sue the owner. Following Beware of Dog sign law is a safety measure, but it does not excuse the owner of their liability for the accident. You can only sue a dog owner if their negligence caused your dog bite injuries.

Unless the plaintiff was trespassing or provoking the dog, owners have a strict liability to protect the public from their dog’s aggressive behavior. Gathering evidence to prove that claim can be tricky, but possible with the right legal help.

Hiring a personal injury attorney may seem daunting, but most attorneys work under contingency. This means you won’t pay upfront for their services until you get your settlement in the mail. If you’re wondering where to contact a trusted attorney, LegalASAP has 500+ law firms located throughout the U.S. ready to help.

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Who is Protected Under Beware of Dog Sign Law?

Displaying a Beware of Dog sign may seem helpful in protecting the public. However, it will do little to protect the owner from liability after a dog bite. A Beware of Dog sign alerts the public of potential danger, but the dog owner is still responsible for preventing the danger from occurring.

The only way a Beware of Dog sign can help absolve liability is if the owner was already taking precautions to prevent a dog bite from occurring. Examples of such precautions include:

  • Placing the dog in a confined area if aware of their violent behavior
  • Properly socializing the dog to prevent aggression
  • Leaving the dog behind a fenced yard
  • Using a leash to prevent the dog from escaping

Taking extra safety measures lets the court know the owner was fulfilling their duty of care in protecting the public. A Beware of Dog sign alone isn’t enough to avoid liability.

Only a personal injury attorney can determine if you’re protected and if the sign is helpful in your case. Under unique circumstances, your case may have a chance, and it’s best to seek legal advice so you understand your claim.

Use Neutral Wording to Warn Others

A sign that says "No trespassing private property" on a black fence. There are trees behind the fence.

Sometimes, the phrase Beware of Dog isn’t direct enough for people to stay out of the owner’s property. Some may view it as a joke or threat they won’t take seriously.

Therefore, using a more direct phrase like No Trespassing is a better sign and may help the owner with their case. They can then argue the victim’s trespassing caused their injuries. A No Trespassing sign also doesn’t show the owner is aware of their dog’s violent tendencies as the Beware of the Dog sign does.

When Are Property Owners Liable for a Dog Bite?

Owners are most likely strictly liable for severe dog bite injuries, regardless of Beware of Dog sign law. For instance, if the owner is aware of their dog’s violent bearings, it’s their responsibility to keep the dog under control. Failing to do so will result in the owner being fully liable.

There is a chance that the owner would not be liable for a victim’s losses if they trespassed or committed criminal offenses, but there may be some exceptions.

Someone threatening the dog under a Beware of Dog sign may imply they accepted the assumption of risk for their actions. Thus, seeking legal advice will help determine if your case meets notable criteria.

What if You Suffered a Dog Bite Under Beware of Dog Sign Law?

If you suffered a dog bite under a Beware of Dog sign, by law, you have a right to file a lawsuit against the owner. The Beware of Dog sign would only show the owner’s negligence as it depicts the owner’s awareness of their dog’s aggressive behavior.

The sign won’t excuse the owner’s negligence if you had a legitimate purpose for entering the property (mailman, food delivery driver, etc.). If the victim didn’t have a lawful reason to visit the owner’s property, the owner can claim they were trespassing.

Did You Trespass Under Their Property?

Trespassing into the owner’s property may be considered a felony or misdemeanor depending on the case. If the victim trespassed onto the dog owner’s property, the owner may not be held liable for an accident.

These circumstances can happen, and it’s best to seek legal help to determine if such an occurrence has happened, especially with dangerous dog breeds like German Shepherds or Pit Bulls.

Severity of Damages

If a dog bite causes severe injuries that may call for the dog to be put down, the owner is most likely liable for the victim’s injuries.

In Pennsylvania statutes, the owner is liable if the victim can prove the owner’s dog caused a severe injury without provocation. Pennsylvania law defines a severe injury as:

“any physical injury resulting in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.”

3 P.S. § 459-102

Dog Owners Owe a Duty of Care

It’s a general rule that dog owners have a duty of care to prevent any harm or injuries to the public. Dog owners must be able to control their dogs or keep them away from vulnerable individuals. It’s also crucial to put up a sign and let the public know you have a dog on the property. Thus, they cannot trespass on private property.

Sometimes, separate circumstances may get in the way of assigning liability to the owner. During a Colorado case, two pit bulls barked and lunged at an eight-year-old behind a chain-linked fence. The eight-year-old was frightened and ran toward the street, where a van ran him over and died from his injuries.

In the case Lopez v. Trujillo (397 P.3d 370 (Colo. 2017)), the Colorado Supreme Court stated that since the pit bulls did not touch or harm the child, the owner did not owe a duty of care to the passerby child, so there was no negligence.

What if the Dog was Improperly Confined?

If the dog was improperly confined and has bitten someone passing by, then it’s the owner’s fault due to their negligence. The owner will be held accountable for not taking reasonable care when owning their dog.

Taking reasonable care means adding appropriate precautions to prevent a dog bite from occurring. It’s the owner’s responsibility to make sure their dog does not leave their property and is strictly confined.

You May Have a Dog Bite Case With a Personal Injury Attorney

Were you a victim of a dog bite? Or you were wrongfully accused of a dog bite? Reach out to our team, LegalASAP. We are partners with over 500+ firms working with experienced attorneys willing to help you with your case. We understand it can be frustrating to handle a case alone, which is why we are here to help.

We’ll make it easy, and please fill out a quick evaluation form. One of our agents will contact you shortly to help you find the best dog bite attorney in your state.

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Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at linkedin.com

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