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Can a Landlord Be Held Liable for a Dog Bite?

Posted in Dog Bite

A dog bite injury can cause serious physical and emotional damage to a victim. When a dog attacks, the victim can suffer painful and even permanent injuries. It is important to understand New Mexico’s laws surrounding dog bite injuries to protect your legal rights as a victim. You may be able to hold the pet owner – or in some cases, a landlord – financially responsible for the attack. A dog bite injury attorney in Albuquerque can help you with a legal claim.

New Mexico’s Dog Bite Law

New Mexico is unique in that it does not have a dog bite injury law. Instead, it has a “uniform jury instruction” that directs jurors to rule on dog bite injury lawsuits according to the legal theory of negligence. This is referred to in other states as a one-bite rule. Using the theory of negligence in a dog bite case requires evidence that the owner of the dog knew or reasonably should have known that the dog had a propensity for viciousness.

For example, if the dog had bitten someone in the past, the pet owner would know about the dog’s vicious aggressive tendencies. Then, there must be evidence that the owner of the dog did not take reasonable steps to prevent a foreseeable attack, such as using a leash or fence. Only then will a pet owner be held liable for the attack. There are some exceptions to the jury instructions, however, that can make a dog owner strictly liable for an attack without proof of negligence.

What Are a Landlord’s Responsibilities?

Depending on the circumstances, a landlord could be held liable for a dog bite injury in New Mexico. Landlords owe certain responsibilities to tenants and guests on rented or leased properties. They must keep them reasonably safe through efforts such as screening new tenants and enforcing pet restrictions, such as using a list of prohibited breeds or only allowing small dogs in rental units.

Although it is less common than holding a dog owner liable, the courts in New Mexico may find a landlord legally responsible for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog if the following are more likely to be true than not true:

  • The landlord was legally responsible for the control and maintenance of the property.
  • The landlord knew or should have known that the dog was vicious or could be dangerous.
  • The landlord failed to have the dog removed from the property.

A premises liability case against a landlord in Albuquerque will require clear and convincing evidence that the landlord owed the victim a duty of care, such as the legal obligation to keep tenants and property visitors reasonably free from harm. Then, it will require proof that the landlord breached his or her duty of care (e.g., by allowing a dangerous dog to remain on the property) and that this caused the victim to be injured.

What to Do if You Get Bitten by a Dog on Rented Property

If you were bitten by a dog on a rented property in Albuquerque, you may need a personal injury attorney to help you collect evidence against the landlord. First, gather information about the attack, such as the exact date, time and location. Write down a description of the dog and the name and contact information of the pet owner. Take photographs of your injuries and the scene of the attack. If anyone witnessed the attack, get their information, as well.

Next, go to a hospital in Albuquerque for immediate medical attention. Dog bite injuries often require professional medical care to prevent infections and other complications. Going to a hospital also shows an insurance company the extent of your injuries during a claim later. Report the dog attack to your local Animal Control Center. Finally, contact a personal injury attorney for assistance with the claims process.

An attorney can help you identify the defendant(s), file an insurance claim and negotiate for maximum financial compensation. If you have grounds to hold a landlord in Albuquerque responsible for a dog bite injury, an attorney can help you gather evidence and explain your rights as an injured tenant or property guest.