In Kentucky, if someone gets bitten by a dog, who is responsible? Of course, it depends on the details of the situation, and where you fit into the equation. Whether you’re a landlord, a tenant, or the person who has been bitten, you might be wondering who’s responsible. Who gets sued? Who do you sue? What if the landlord didn’t know that there was a dangerous dog on the premises? Does the fact that the landlord doesn’t own the dog mean that you can’t sue them?
Benningfield v. Zinsmeister
Thanks to a 2012 Kentucky Supreme Court decision, landlords were considered to be at least partially responsible for injuries sustained due to their tenant’s pets. Benningfield v. Zinsmeister, 367 S.W.3d 561 (Ky. 2012) stated that a landlord could be held as the “owner” of the tenant’s animal if it caused injury to a third-party. In order for that to happen, the landlord had to be aware of the animal and allow it to remain on the property. In the case at hand, the tenant had been asked to get rid of the dog but the landlord took no action to follow through.
It’s clear that this was a bad law. Not all tenants comply immediately with requests from their landlord. Some tenants willfully disregard the landlord’s requests. There tends to be an overlap between the sort of people who would neglect to follow instructions from their landlord and the sort of people who would fail to take the time to properly train their dog.
A bill to fix this Supreme Court decision has been passed– HB 112 (2017). This law now clarifies the definition of “owner” in the context of an animal, and makes it possible to limit liability to the tenant who actually owns or keeps the animal.
Limiting liability to the tenant (and actual owner of the animal) is especially important in cases of absentee landlords. While good landlords will have a property management company, that doesn’t take the place of a local landlord who can keep an eye on what happens at the property.
A landlord who rents through a property management company has a disadvantage when it comes to tenants’ animals. The landlord doesn’t meet tenants, they don’t see the day-to-day happenings, and they may not even be aware that a tenant has an animal on the property. This is especially true when the lease prohibits the presence of a dog or requires affirmative consent from the landlord for the dog to be on the premises.
How Can Tenants And Landlords Protect Themselves Under The Kentucky Dog Bite Law?
Landlords can mitigate their risks in a few ways. Leases should be crafted carefully to ensure that the types, kinds, breeds, and quantities of animals kept by tenants are laid out in the lease and verifiable. If landlords have easy access to the property, they should check in on the tenant after move-in, and every now and again thereafter. It is ultimately the landlord’s responsibility to know.
If you are a landlord, you can further protect yourself by obtaining Kentucky landlord insurance. This insurance protects the dwelling from risks such as fire, and it also offers liability coverage. If you’re sued over something a tenant’s animal does, the policy will defend you. This can include an effort to remove you from the lawsuit per the Kentucky dog bite law.
If you are a tenant, how can you protect yourself against a lawsuit over your dog? First and foremost, make sure that the dog you acquire is appropriate for your lifestyle. If you can’t give a large dog the attention and exercise they deserve, you should think twice about getting one. Training the dog properly is also important, particularly if you live on a rental property or in close quarters. Many dog bite claims could have been avoided had the dog been properly trained and cared for.
When buying Kentucky Renters Insurance, you should ask two questions. First, you should ask if animal liability is covered. Some companies exclude animal liability, and you need to be aware of this if you hope to have a defense against a lawsuit. Second, you should ask if your particular breed of dog is covered, as some policies contain breed restrictions.
Honesty is crucial when it comes to pets, so make sure to mention when you have one. You want your policy to defend you against a dog bite claim, should you ever find yourself in such a situation. If the person suing you was taunting or intentionally angering the dog, you may not be responsible for the bite but you would still need your renters insurance to pay for a defense.
Fortunately, both Kentucky landlord insurance and Kentucky renters insurance are affordable and easy to get. Effective Coverage insurance experts can help you to efficiently quantify and protect against your risk, because insurance is our world and we want to get you quickly back to yours. It just takes one phone call to get covered, the paperwork is all online, and we can even provide instant proof of coverage for your landlord or mortgage company. Just call (800)892-4308 or click to get covered - whether you need Kentucky renters insurance quotes online or coverage anywhere else!
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