Some of our San Diego area readers may believe that if they suffer an injury from a dog bite that the owner of that dog is automatically responsible. And, in some cases, that is true. However, the circumstances in which the dog bite occurs can be an important factor in determining who is actually at fault, and in some cases there may be an applicable defense.
If a dog bite leads to an injury, a personal injury lawsuit may be filed in order to attempt to recover financial compensation. But, the dog's owner may come into court prepared to offer a defense for the dog's actions. Probably the most common defense is that the injured victim actually provoked the attack in some way. The pet owner could show that the person approached the dog aggressively and the dog simply reacted to a perceived threat, or the pet owner could show an actual physical attack on the dog by the injured victim. If an act of provocation did in fact occur, it will be tough to convince a judge or jury that the injured victim should receive compensation nonetheless.
Another common situation that occurs and that presents an opportunity for a valid defense is if the dog's owner provided adequate warning that the dog in question does in fact have aggressive tendencies. The most common warning? A "Beware of Dog" sign. If the pet owners can show that they took steps to alert anyone who may potentially come into contact with the dog about the dog's dangerous demeanor, the pet owner may be able to at least lower the amount of perceived responsibility for the dog bite.
When medical expenses add up due to a dog bite injury, the chances are that the injured victim will seek to pursue compensation from the dog's owner. However, the injured victim will probably want to review the circumstances in order to ensure that there is a minimal likelihood that the defendant will be able to present a valid defense.
Source: FindLaw, "Dog Bites and Animal Attack Overview," Accessed Dec. 4, 2015