A family member asked you to watch their dog while they went away on vacation. While you were dog sitting, the dog attacked one of your neighbors. While you regret the injuries sustained by your neighbor, you aren't liable for any injuries because you aren't the dog's owner, right? Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn't necessarily no. Even if you don't own the dog, you could still be legally responsible for any injuries.
Understand The Keeper Law
While dog's owners are primarily thought to be responsible for a dog bite, some states have dog bite laws that also extend to keepers as well. In simple terms, a keeper is designated as the individual who is responsible for the care of the dog when the owner is not present. If you are watching the dog while the owner is not home, you are considered its keeper. Make sure you know the keeper laws in your state.
What's At Risk
In the event of a dog bite that occurs while you're watching a dog, the victim could file a personal injury claim against you. The chances of this occurring are especially high if you are guilty of any level of negligence.
Allowing the dog to roam without a leash or placing the dog in a backyard without a secure fence are just a couple of the ways the court could classify you as being negligent. In addition to the cost of their medical treatment, you could be sued for any missed time they incurred from work as well as pain and suffering.
A Word To The Wise
Given the potentially harsh penalties that come along with a personal injury suit resulting from a dog bite, don't agree to watch any dog who you cannot safely contain. If you don't have sturdy fencing or a secure place to leash the dog, you might have to decline the request for you to dog sit. Additionally, it might be a good idea to avoid keeping any overly aggressive dogs if you don't feel confident you can control them.
If you have found yourself in this difficult situation, don't overlook the importance of having an attorney like one from Bennett & Zydron PC on your side. An attorney can examine the facts of the case to ensure the victim was not at all or in-part responsible for the attack. Even if you aren't able to avoid the suit, having an attorney on your side will ensure you aren't required to compensate the victim more than they deserve.