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Oct 01

Who does not love a dog?

Well, for one a child who has permanent facial scarring as a result of an unexpected dog bite.

Dog bite cases are always sad. The most common victim in such cases are children, who in addition to losing trust in “man’s best friend,” are often left permanently scarred, psychologically and physically, and often suffer through months of multiple surgeries, lost school, and absent friends, in an attempt undo the damage.

It is important for a victim of a dog bite, or the parent of a victim, to understand that, in many cases, the dog is associated with a home; sometimes the home is owned by the person who owned the dog; sometimes the home is merely rented and the dog is owned by a tenant. Unlike car wrecks, where auto insurance is present to cover the damage, in most dog bite cases, the homeowner, and thus homeowner’s insurance, is looked to to compensate the victim. In addition to homeowner’s insurance, one should be aware of the tenant’s potential, additional, liability and ascertain whether they carried renters insurance, and in the case landlord liability, whether the landlord carries multiple homeowner policies which might be stacked or added together to achieve a greater potential recovery for the victim.

In Benningfield v. Zinsmeister, 367 S.W.3d 561 (Ky. 2012) the Kentucky Supreme Court clarified landlord liability for dog bites. The Benningfield decision is generally favorable to victims. It clarified that even if a landlord does not actually “own” the dog that bites, they are considered to be its “owner” if the dog was actually owned by the tenant and the landlord was aware the dog was being kept on the premises. It further clarifies that owners of a dog that bites are strictly liable to the victim, under statute, if the dog bites while on or near the property of the owner.

Due to the potential for overlapping liability and insurance coverage, it is recommended that if you or your child has been the victim of a dog bit, you should seek the advice of a lawyer.

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