I am a Dog Trainer. Could I Ever Have a Dog-Bite Claim?
In Montana, there is a strict liability standard for dog bites. If a dog bites a person, the owner of the dog is liable for the damages. It does not matter if the dog has bitten other people or has been vicious in the past. Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1-715.
The owner of a dog that without provocation bites a person while the person is on or in a public place or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, located within an incorporated city or town is liable for damages that may be suffered by the person bitten regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of the viciousness.
The way this law applies to dog trainers is ambiguous. There is no stated exception to the rule for professional dog trainers or groomers in the code section, and there are also no Montana court opinions on the topic.
Two other documents could influence your liability with a dog trainer: your dog-training contract and the dog trainer’s own insurance policy. If your dog training contract speaks about what will happen in the event the dog attacks the trainer, those clauses could be controlling when it comes to liability. Also, professional dog trainers should carry professional insurance. Those policies may or may not cover medical expenses if a dog attacks a trainer. It depends on the policy.
If you are a dog-owner:
- Read any training contract thoroughly and understand any liability provisions.
- If you are concerned about your pet attacking the trainer, mention your concerns to the trainer before the training begins.
- If your pet happens to attack a dog-trainer consult an attorney before you admit fault and pay medical bills or damages.
If you are a dog trainer:
- Carry professional insurance.
- Be prepared to deal with and protect yourself from dog bites.
- Discuss dog-bite procedures and liability with your clients. Be clear about your expectations. Ask your clients if their dog has bitten or been vicious in the past.
- If you are injured by a dog, proceed carefully. Seek medical treatment promptly, and speak to an attorney about your specific case.