"Are there pets on the premises?" has become a standard question asked by workers who need to go onto people's property or into their homes. The owner of the property might think nothing of this question or might simply assume that the worker was being considerate, asking to ensure that the animal is not accidentally allowed to escape out an open door, window or unattended back gate. In reality, the worker is taking steps to protect his or her safety.
Postal workers, for example, were bitten over 5,000 times by dogs in 2015 alone. And that's just a small percentage of the over 4 million dog bites that occur yearly in the United States. Dog bites can have serious repercussions. They can become infected. Dogs' sharp teeth and strong jaws can damage skin, muscle and bone. They can permanently scar or even disfigure their victim.
Workers who are bitten by a dog while on the job may be able to claim restitution from two distinct sources. First, the owner of the dog may be liable for damages. Sometimes dog bite victims are hesitant to press charges against a dog owner for fear that it may cause the owner undue financial hardship. This is especially true if the worker has a good relationship with the dog's owner or if this is a dog the worker has encountered in the past without incident. Fear not. Most dog bite claims are covered by the dog owner's homeowner's insurance.
In addition to damages from the dog's owner, an employee may be eligible for workers' compensation. This would be a possibility only if the worker were bitten or injured while on the job.
Dog bite laws are not straightforward and vary greatly from state to state. A personal injury attorney can inform you of your rights and help you understand if you are entitled to compensation.