Can my neighbors sue me if my dog bit their child? 40 Answers as of July 02, 2013

My kids and the neighbors kid were playing in my yard. I didn't know he was out there, but he's scared of the dog. I was getting ready to walk my dog, so I put on the leash. When I walked out, I yelled "Snowballs Coming " and walked out. I have an american eskimo, which is a watchdog. She is a lovely dog, but hates fighting. The neighbors kid pushed my kid, and the dog charged and bit him. I pulled her away right after. It left a small bruise(no bleeding) and a couple teeth marks. Now, they want to sue. I told them I'd pay the hospital bills, but they still want to sue. Will I lose this case?

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Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
Under Florida law, a dog owner is strictly liable if the owner's dog bites another person. The only defense to that case is if they have a "Bad Dog" sign posted or if the person provoked the dog. If the kid pushed your dog, that certainly could be raised as a defense to the claim, as that could be provoking the dog. Just call your homeowner's insurance company and report the claim to them and let them worry about it.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 3/23/2012
Howes & Anderson, P.C.
Howes & Anderson, P.C. | Ronald Anderson
Dog owners in Iowa are usually strictly liable for damages that their dogs do. Therefore your neighbor likely could bring a claim for damages as a result of your dog's actions. If you have insurance you should turn this matter over to your insurance company.
Answer Applies to: Iowa
Replied: 3/22/2012
Law Office of Jared Altman
Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
We have have the "one free bite" rule in Nee York. You're not liable unless you knew or should have k own that your dog had vicious propensities.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 3/22/2012
Law Office of A. R. Appel
Law Office of A. R. Appel | ANTOINETTE R. APPEL, Ph.D.
I don't know enough about your case to answer whether your neighbor will sue you but I do know this if you are served with a lawsuit, find the nearest telephone and call your homeowner's insurance they will ask that you send them a copy of the papers (you keep a copy too) someone from your insurance company will either call you or come by and talk with you and under your homeowner's insurance, they have to provide you with a defense including a lawyer. Remember this anyone can sue, it does not mean that they will win but it sure is inconvenient if you are on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Do what I said and then cooperate with the lawyer assigned by the insurance company. You've been more than appropriate you offered to pay the medical bills if there were any, and I assume that you have told your child's friend's parents that you are sorry this happened. They should be really happy that nothing more happened. Now for a word to the wise you own a watchdog. Take yourself and your dog to a really good trainer if you are in the Ft. Lauderdale area, there is a place called the ABCs of dog training. They train watchdogs. The trainer (John) will work with you and your dog to bring the dog under somewhat better control. There should be some secret phrase which, when Snowball is on a leash, tells Snowball to go for it and Snowball should never attack unless you say that phrase or the person holding the leash is attacked. Everyone was lucky this time no one got seriously hurt and you were there to pull Snowball off. Unfortunately, next time you may not be so lucky. If you love your dog, and care about yourself and your family, go find that trainer.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 3/22/2012
Ezim Law Firm | Dean Esposito
You are responsible for the actions of your animals. The parents will sue you on behalf of their minor child for the medical bills and personal injuries sustained, if any.
Answer Applies to: Louisiana
Replied: 3/22/2012
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    Maybe but if you did it would not be for much.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Pingelton Law Firm | Dan Pingelton
    Your homeowners insurance will probably cover it.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    Yes, you will. The dog bite statute is strict liability except for provcation. Just turn it over to your homeowners insurance and they will defend and settle the case for you. If you don't have homeowners, you will need an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    David Francis Law
    David Francis Law | David Francis
    The short answer is yes, the neighbors can sue. Like any personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove that the dog owner 1) had a duty to keep the dog under control, 2) that the owner failed to keep the dog under control, 3) that the dog, and the owner's failure to control the dog, was the cause of the plaintiff's injury, and 4) that the injury resulted in damages (usually in the way of medical expenses, scarring, fear, anxiety, pain and suffering, etc). Also, it appears that the owner knew (as in: had prior notice of) the dog's propensity to attack if it saw an altercation of any kind. This will work against the dog owner. Hopefully, the dog owner has Homeowner's Insurance, or if a renter, the landlord has Insurance. If so, and unless the policy specifically excludes coverage for dog bites, the insurance carrier should provide an attorney to defend the dog owner in the event he/she is sued. Dog bites that produce scars on children generally prove to be valuable cases in terms of settlement agreements. The dog owner should talk to his/her Insurance company and consult the Homeowner's policy.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator | Bernard Huff
    Yes, your neighbor can if you were negligent in not having your dog on a leash when the neighbor's kid was on your premises. You should consult with an attorney who handles dog bite cases.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    If your dog is a vicious dog you may have liability. If the dog was antagonized by the kid who was bit you should be OK> is not a big matter. If you have homeowners or a general liability policy or an umbrella of some kind, tell your agent and let the insurance deal with it.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Paris Blank LLP
    Paris Blank LLP | Irving M Blank
    How old was the child? Has your dog ever bit a child before? Does your locality have a leash law? Do you have homeowner's insurance? These questions have to be answered before anyone can give you an answer.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/2/2013
    Ford, Howard & Cornett, P.C. | Bradley Cornett
    You should consider putting your homeowners insurance carrier on notice of the potential claim.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Law Office of Gregory Crain | Gregory Crain
    Yes they can sue. Yes you could lose.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Atterbury, Kammer & Haag | Eric J. Haag
    If you have homeowners insurance, this incident is almost sure to be covered by your insurance policy. You should notify your agent or the company immediately. The victim will have a very strong case because this is a case of "strict liability." The insurance company should pay the claim or defend the claim at no cost to you.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    You are probably liable for the injuries. You should notify your homeowner's insurance as soon as you can.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    Lennon Miller O'Connor and Bartosiewicz PLC | Christopher Morris
    Yes you can be sued for injuries caused by your pet. This case would be covered under your homeowners insurance policy or a renter's insurance policy. You should contact your insurance agent right away and give them all the details.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/22/2012
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    You are liable for any damages. If you own a home and have homeowner's insurance, your insurance should hire an attorney to defend any claim, and pay whatever is awarded. Based on your description of the incident, it doesn't sound like they would get much more than the medical bills.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Hynum Law Office, LLC
    Hynum Law Office, LLC | G. Wayne Hynum
    Can they sue you? Yes. Will you lose the case? I don't know, it depends on the facts. Based on the facts set out in your post, I have to wonder if the dog was on a leash why you did not have the dog under control. Why did you yell, "Snowballs Coming"? Was it because you knew the dog was a danger to the children? Your homeowners insurance policy will probably cover this and I suggest you turn it over to your insurance company.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C.
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C. | Dean T Jennings
    Contact your home owners insurance company and let them handle the claim.
    Answer Applies to: Iowa
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Quitmeier Law Firm, P.C.
    Quitmeier Law Firm, P.C. | William M. Quitmeier
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 5/30/2013
    Dungan, Lady, Kirkpatrick & Dungan PLLC | Michael Dungan
    Unfortunately, the neighbors likely have a civil cause of action. The laws governing dog bites are pretty stacked against dog owners. However, the level of injury in this case sounds relatively minor, many lawyers would not represent the neighbors because it sounds like the case has low value. If you are sued, turn the lawsuit over to your home owners insurance company, they will hire a lawyer for your, pay all costs, and settle the claim for whatever amount they think is appropriate. The whole process should cost you nothing.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Law Offices of David W. Hibbert
    Law Offices of David W. Hibbert | David W. Hibbert
    Yes, they can file suit for damages, however, since the dog was in your yard and on the leash they may not prevail. Your homeowners insurance should be notified and allowed to handle the matter. I guess the real question is "How did the dog get to the child , which you knew to be "afraid", while you were controlling the dog on a leash?" There might be a claim for your failure to adequately control the dog , with or without a leash. Even though the child had no serious physical injury , a once simple fear has now been made very real by this episode of attack.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Broad Law Firm, LLC
    Broad Law Firm, LLC | Donald K. Broad
    Assuming you have homeowner's insurance with liability coverage, you should turn the claim over to them. The insurance company will be obligated to hire an attorney to defend you, if you do get sued. In addition, they will pay any judgment that is within their liability limits. But generally, yes, the owner of a dog, in the circumstances you describe, will be liable for any damages the dog causes.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    California Civil Code Section 3342 provides in part: (a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages sufferedby any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place orlawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner ofthe dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon theprivate property of such owner within the meaning of this sectionwhen he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposedupon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property uponthe invitation, express or implied, of the owner. As you can see, the statute is essentially one for strict liability it does not matter that the dog was protecting another child. I would not worry too much, however, because the damages are nominal. You can be held liable for the damages sustained. If there were no puncture wounds or stitches, what could this be worth? Not much. Offering to pay the medical bills is probably sufficient. Also note, that your homeowner's insurance would probably cover this. If you have a med-pay provision, it would cover any medical expenses for someone injured on your property, regardless of fault. So you can contact your insurance carrier about that. Your deductible probably does not come into play on a med pay provision. I seriously doubt that any attorney would take their case on a contingency basis because the upside is so small, it's simply not worth a lawsuit. One caveat would be if the parent observed the bite. If a relative observes harm to a relative, they can claim damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress. But again, this was not a mauling, there was no blood, and it sounds like it was not that big of a deal.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C. | Robert Kelly
    Your dog bite statutes are here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=16.08 You can also read dog bite cases (i.e. Beeler V. Hickman, 50 Wn. App. 746, 750 P.2d 1282 (1988)) here: http://www.mrsc.org/wa/courts/index_dtSearch.html According to RCW 16.08.040, " The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness. "
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Law Office of Patrick E. Donovan, PLLC
    Law Office of Patrick E. Donovan, PLLC | Patrick E. Donovan
    Whether you win or lose depends on a variety of factors, including whether your dog has any history of attacking or biting people. Notify your property insurance carrier. You should have coverage for this type of claim and they have a duty to defend you.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Downriver Injury and Auto Law | Michael Heilmann
    There is no free bite rule in MI. You are strictly liable for the Bite in the absence of "provocation". Turn this into your home owner's insurance carrier if you have one.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    The Law Offices of Barry Regar | Barry Regar
    Short answer is yes. The owner of a dog in Calilfornia is strictly liable for the bite under the facts of your case. Your homeowners insurance policy should cover the claim assuming you own a home with liability insurance. The fact that the other kid pushed your child does not provide you with a defense to the liability imposed by the California dog bite statute.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Goodman & Goodman PA | Bruce Elliott Goodman
    If you have homeowners' or renters' insurance you should refer this matter to your insurance company immediately as the same may be covered by your policy. If you do not have such insurance you should contact an attorney immediately regarding defending you if you are in fact sued by your neighbor.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    Notify your homeowner's insurance company right away. They will investigate the case and defend you if you are sued. But since the injuries were trivial, it is not worth bringing a lawsuit.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm | Thomas Bulman
    Yes. Contact your home insurance company or that of the landlord and let them deal with it.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC | Russell D. Gray
    In Utah, the owner or keeper of a dog is strictly liable for injuries caused by the dog. That means if your dog hurt someone, you are liable for it.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Adler Law Group, LLC
    Adler Law Group, LLC | Lawrence Adler
    Yes. Connecticut has strict liability for injuries caused by a dog unless the injured person was teasing the dog or trespassing. Turn this matter over to your homeowners carrier to defend this.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    The Law Offices of Mark Kotlarsky
    The Law Offices of Mark Kotlarsky | Mark Kotlarsky
    Ask your home insurance to take care of the case.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 7/2/2013
    Blackledge Law Firm, PA | Joel Blackledge
    Yes, they can sue. It is impossible to predict success or victory based on the limited information. Your homeowner's insurance might provide coverage. Talk to your agent.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Andersen Staab PLLC
    Andersen Staab PLLC | F. Dayle Andersen
    Washington is a strict liability state for dog bites on your property. The only defense available is if the child provoked the dog. So you will likely lose. Your homeowners coverage typically will defend and pay any damages related to this matter. You should contact your homeowners insurance and inform them.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/21/2012
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C.
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C. | Steven A. Schwartz
    There are strict liability laws in Massachusetts against dog owners or their handlers for any harm caused by a dog. Strict liability simply means that if certain criteria are met, the dog owner or its handler is responsible - regardless of whether he or she was personally at fault in any way. Even If the dog owner or handler had no reason to suspect that his or her dog could be a danger to others, he or she is still liable. What kind of proof do you need? Under Massachusetts General Laws (Chapter 140, Section 155), the dog bite victim needs to show four things: * That the defendant is, in fact, the owner or handler of the dog * That the person who was injured by the dog was not trespassing or in the process of committing a crime. *That the injury victim was not teasing or tormenting the dog * And that the victim was, in fact, injured by the dog.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 3/21/2012
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