Dog vs. Mailman: Who’s Liable?
A man’s best friend, that is until that man decides to deliver mail. Dogs seem to have it out for postmen whether it’s in cartoons, books, or in real life. This may stem from a territory breach in the eyes of your dog when instead you’re just trying to receive your bills, birthday cards, and magazine subscriptions. Most of the time a dog may just bark, or run to the edge of the fence to watch over the approaching stranger, but what if he bites the mailman or woman? Or worse, severely injures him or her?
In the state of New Jersey, as with most states, there is a strict liability law, under which makes dog owners liable in a civil lawsuit when their dog bites another person. This holds true if the victim was on public property or legally on private property during the attack. Looking at this through premises liability law, anyone entering your property should have a reasonable expectation of not being injured. It is the property owner’s job to make sure it is safe for any visitors, including taking care of a dog that may be aggressive towards guests.
How Can I Be Held Responsible?
If one is injured by a dog bite on another’s property, that person bitten may sue if the owner’s negligence is proven. This can be claimed by proving the owner had a duty to take reasonable care to control the dog, that the owner failed to meet that duty, and a dog bite injury was the result of that failure. History of that dog’s behavior is important in civil law as it will show what “reasonable” measures an owner needed to take to prevent the incident. For instance, having the dog on a leash, or a “Beware of Dog” sign showing there is a hostile dog on site. Nevertheless, what if someone enters your property illegally, or by accident and is bitten?
Trespassing is a legal defense to a dog bite claim in New Jersey. The liability statute won’t apply if the victim was not legally on private property. However, if a postman or woman is doing their job on your property, under the law, it is not trespassing because they were carrying out a legal duty. Therefore, it holds the property owner liable to keep whoever delivers their mail safe.
To prevent your dog from biting, the first step may be training it to behave in a way that will keep everyone around it unharmed. If your dog’s aggressive behavior towards anyone, mostly strangers, in this case, persists, taking steps such as installing a fence, putting up “Beware of Dog” signs, or keeping the dog inside during the time of mail delivery are great ways to prevent injury and furthermore a lawsuit. Making your homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance aware of you owning a dog will help you out in case an accident was to occur where you were facing a lawsuit. Certain types of pet insurance policies may be available as well, otherwise, you may be held personally liable if you were to lose against the injured party.
Have you been injured on someone else’s property or had someone else injured on yours? Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone today. We can help you sort it out.