blog home Dog Bites Can “Beware of Dog” signs affect dog bite liability?

Can “Beware of Dog” signs affect dog bite liability?

By John Singleton on April 15, 2024

Posting a “Beware of Dog” sign on your property can help deter intruders. Nobody wants to get bitten by a dog, and bad actors will likely think twice before risking an encounter that could cause serious injuries. A less provocative message to ward off prowlers may be “No Trespassing” or simply “Dog on Property.”

Why might a “Beware of Dog” not protect me from liability?

Dog bites are a serious concern. More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States, and nearly one out of five victims require medical attention. Sadly, children between the ages of five and nine are most likely to be bitten.

Most dog bites happen at home, and the overwhelming majority of victims are not intruders. They’re friends, relatives, guests, or visitors who have a valid reason to be on your property, such as mail carriers, meter readers, or someone delivering a package.

At our personal injury law firm, we represent numerous clients who’ve been seriously injured by dog bites. Many people believe that posting a “Beware of Dog” sign will shield them from liability if their dog bites someone.

Like many legal issues, the real answer is, “It depends.” Is your sign open and obvious so that it is conspicuous enough for someone entering your property to see it? Is your dog trained to attack? Is the person on your property old enough or smart enough to understand what your sign means?

Even if you have a “Beware of Dog” sign on your property, and someone enters your property with your permission, such as a guest or service technician, the sign may not protect you from liability if your dog attacks the person. For example, if you say to them, “Fido just barks. He’s OK.”

Virginia is a contributory negligence state; if someone comes on your property, fully aware of the “Beware of Dog” sign, and jumps out of their car and gets bitten by your dog, the sign MAY help, but there are a lot of facts to consider.

What is considered a dangerous dog in Virginia?

Dog owners may be responsible if their dog hurts someone, has misbehaved in the past, or is a breed known to act up. Notice I did not use the word “bitten.” The old saying, “Every dog gets one bite,” is not true.

For purposes of Animal Control, a legal process in Virginia determines if a dog is dangerous and requires control or confinement, such as a muzzle or cage. Doctors and medical facilities in Virginia are required to inform the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) whenever they treat someone for injuries caused by a dog attack, which will trigger an investigation by Animal Control (AC). You, too, can contact Animal Control if you believe a dog is dangerous.

Private law enforcement officers and animal control workers may apply to a magistrate requesting a dangerous dog hearing. When an animal is found by a court to be a dangerous dog in Virginia, owners must take several steps to comply with the law. This may include implanting the dog with an electronic identification registration device, purchasing dog bite insurance with at least $100,000 of liability coverage, keeping the dog confined within the owner’s residence, controlling the dog with a leash and muzzle when it’s out in public, and posting clearly visible warning signs at all entry points of the home and yard where the dog stays.

How can dog attacks be prevented?

Ken and I are both dads, and we know from personal experience that a well-trained dog can be a wonderful addition to your family. But owners must take precautions to protect children and others from dog bites, even with dogs that haven’t behaved aggressively in the past.

When people are visiting your home, separate them from your dog or provide direct supervision if they want to interact with your pet. This especially applies to children.

Talk to your children about dog safety. That means never approaching a stray dog, never petting a dog without getting the owner’s and your parent’s permission, and always being gentle with pets. Never attempt to take a toy away from a dog or disturb it while it’s eating.

Who can I call if someone in my family is bitten by a dog?

Give us a call at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Ken and I are former members of the U.S. Marines, and we consider it our calling to get justice for our friends and neighbors in Virginia who’ve been harmed by others.

Ken served as a federal prosecutor, and I have worked in a large private-sector firm serving insurance companies. That’s why one of our mottos is “big city experience, small town care.”

Reach out to us at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777 to schedule a free consultation today.

When you put your trust in GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, you don’t pay anything unless we win your case. We call it our Zero Fee Guarantee.

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
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