Angry dog ready to attackWhen an aggressive dog attacks you in a public area, the owner of that dog can be held legally responsible for any damage. However, if the attack takes place within the confines of private property, such as within an apartment complex, the owner of that property may also be held liable. To ensure your dog bite claim’s success, you should understand who may be liable.

Dog Bite Liability

Dog bite laws in the United States are somewhat complicated and can change from state to state. In fact, in Tennessee alone, dog bite laws can even vary from county to county. However, the overall understanding of liability and fault is placed on the dog’s owner. Since the dog can’t be held personally accountable for his actions, his owner is responsible for keeping him in line. Tennessee Code §44-8-413 specifically states that:

  • A dog’s owner has an obligation to keep her dog under control at all times. This means she’s also responsible for keeping that dog away from situations that may provoke him to attack. If an owner fails in her duty, she’s subject to civil liability for any damages that result from the dog’s actions. The extent of damages can include injuries, medical exam costs, and property destruction sustained while on public property or while lawfully in or on private property.
  • When an owner fails to keep her pet under control, she’s financially responsible for all damages caused by the dog’s actions. This holds true regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s temperament or propensity to lash out.
  • In situations where a dog attack takes place on private property, the dog’s owner will be held accountable, but the owner of the property may also be subject to blame for allowing the dangerous creature to roam.

Landlord’s Liability

It’s rare for a landlord to be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant's dog. However, certain exceptions do exist. It’s important to know that leasing an apartment to a tenant with a dog isn’t enough to make a landlord responsible for the dog’s actions. To prove liability, you must be able to show that during the course of the lease agreement, the landlord:

  • Had knowledge of the dog’s violent temperament but chose to lease to the owner despite the risks. If the landlord had previous knowledge that the dog was dangerous and negligently failed to address the situation, he could be held partially liable for any damages.
  • Had intimate knowledge or control of the dog’s actions prior to or during the attack. If the landlord contractually agreed to take care of, harbor, kennel, or maintain control over the animal at any time, he may be open to liability charges. If he was taking care of the dog at the time of the attack, the responsibility of control transfers from the owner to the landlord. Furthermore, if the landlord had intimate knowledge of the dog’s personality, he should have been able to recognize the potential dangers and addressed them before an incident occurred.
  • Had the legal power to evict the dog or his owner. If the landlord had the opportunity to request the removal of the tenant’s dog but failed to do so before an attack, he can be held partially accountable for negligence. Removal opportunity can be legally justified through eviction or as a consequence for violation of aggressive dog rules in the lease agreement.

If you believe that your dog bite injuries were caused as a direct result of owner and landlord negligence, contact our office today at 615-807-7900. We’ll be happy to schedule your FREE one-on-one consultation with attorney John L. Griffith so you can better understand your rights and legal options. Contact us today and see how we can help you get the injury compensation you need.

Need more information right now? Feel free to download our complimentary guide to personal injury claims, “The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case,” to learn more.

John Griffith
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Nashville Personal Injury Trial Attorney