One of the benefits of owning a dog is that you have your own built-in security system to bark and alert you if someone trespasses on your property or threatens you. One of the downsides of owning a dog though is that if your dog bites someone, even someone who is trespassing, you may actually be responsible for any injuries that they suffer.
The Definition Of A Trespasser
It is important to note that even if you didn't invite someone onto your property, that does not necessarily make them a trespasser.
Individuals who service your utilities and read your meter, such as employees for your local water, gas, and electrical company, are not considered intruders. By using the service of those utilities, you have given their workers implied consent to enter your property and perform their duties.
If you do not specifically have a no soliciting sign hanging up on your property somewhere that can easily be seen by people approaching your property, you are giving implied consent for sales people to walk up and knock on your door. They do not however have implied permission to snoop around the back of your home or try to gain access in a different manner.
In order to be considered a trespasser, the individual in question has to be someone who does not have either implied or explicit permission from you to enter your property. For example, someone who is trying to break in and rob your home would be considered a trespasser.
Your Protection Obligation
Your obligation to protect people on your property from a dog bite varies based on whether that person has explicit permission, implied permission, or is trespassing on your property.
For someone who has explicit permission to be on your property, it is your responsibility to provide that person with a high standard of care. Most people explicitly invited onto someone's property have a reasonable expectation that they will be safe. If for any reason someone would not be safe on your property and you explicitly invited them there, it is your job to warn them of any hazards, including a dog that bites, so they can take the necessary precautions.
If someone only has implied permission to enter your property, such as a utility worker or sales person, your protection obligation is a little different than for someone who has explicit permission to be on your property. In this case, you are obligated to warn anyone who has implied permission to enter your property through either a verbal or written warning if you have a dog that might attack them. In this case, a "Vicious Animals Present" or a "Beware of Dogs" sign would fulfill your standard of care obligation.
If someone does not have implicit or explicit permission to be on your property, your obligation is to provide them with a reasonable care and to do what a reasonable person would do in the same situation. Thus, if your dog attacks an intruder and injures them, the intruder could sue you and claim that you didn't exercise a reasonable standard of care. However, they would have to convince a jury or a judge of that fact as a reasonable standard of care for an intruder is a subjective measurement.
For more information, contact local professionals like Eric J. Moore Company, Attorneys At Law.