Can someone sue the dog owner if the dog caused injuries? 42 Answers as of May 30, 2013

This question relates to personal injury sustained by falling in the public hallway of an apartment building after being approached by an unleashed, barking dog while the dog's owner was present and failed to control it. The victim is an elderly woman. As the dog approached her barking, she became fearful and started backing away. She lost her footing and fell; this resulted in a fractured pelvis that required hospitalization and time spent in a rehab facility. What are the laws governing unleashed dogs in public hallways in apartment buildings? Can the victim sue the dog's owner for personal injuries, pain and suffering and medical costs? What are the chances of the victim getting compensated?

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Dwyer, Black & Lyle, LLP
Dwyer, Black & Lyle, LLP | Kevin Habberfield
Yes, the elderly woman should see a personal injury attorney immediately. Can't make a call on likelihood of success but, it's certainly a case any PI attorney would look into. Google "vicious propensities" to learn more on the law.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 1/31/2012
Lapin Law Offices
Lapin Law Offices | Jeffrey Lapin
The answer to your initial Question is "yes" a person can sue a dog owner if his or her dog causes injuries. Without knowing what city you are referring to I cannot answer whether any municipal code section may apply to unleashed dogs in public hallways in apartment buildings. However, Nebraska does have a statute, 54-601, that makes a dog owner "strictly liable" to someone injured by his or her dog. The dog need not bite someone; the dog's owner is responsible if the dog kills, wounds, injures, worries or chases someone and causes injury. "Strict liability" basically means that unless an exception applies, the dog owner is responsible for injuries caused by his or her dog, even if it the first time the dog did what it did to cause the injury. The main exceptions are to a dog owner's liability are: trespassing; intentionally provoking the dog; or merely playful acts of dogs. From you're the information provided, it does not appear that any of these exceptions apply. The victim can sue the dog owner for her injuries, medical expenses, pain, suffering as well as some other items as well. As to your last question, "What are the chances of the victim getting compensated?" this is difficult to answer with the information provided. It appears that the victim has a good chance of receiving compensation. However, there is additional information that could change her "chances."
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 1/30/2012
Atterbury, Kammer & Haag, S.C. | Lee R. Atterbury
Yes. The owner of the dog is responsible for the harm caused including expenses and pain and suffering.
Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
Replied: 1/30/2012
Atterbury, Kammer & Haag | Eric J. Haag
Each state will have its own laws regarding dog bites. In Wisconsin, the owner or keeper of the dog is liable for any injury or damage the dog causes. This would include injuries caused because the dog caused an elderly person to fall. If the owner or keeper of the dog has homeowners insurance or a renters policy, those policies generally provide coverage for damage caused by the dog.
Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
Replied: 1/30/2012
Ford, Howard & Cornett, P.C. | Bradley Cornett
As with many situations, the answer is "it depends." Was the dog being aggressive/threatening or simply a very "vocal" dog? Was it a dog breed known to have aggressive propensities? Did the dog have a history of aggressive behavior? Had the dog injured anyone in the past? As you can see, there are a lot of factors to a dog injury case. You may wish to speak with an attorney in more detail.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 1/30/2012
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    She may have a claim. If the dog has exhibited adequate aggressive behaviors in the past, such that the owner should have been on notice, the a recovery might be available. However, you need to know what the owner's ability to pay a judgment is, before expending recourses on the claim. If the owner is uninsured and has no assets, then do not add to the loss, the expense of litigation... I'll be glad to speak with the victim, but keep in mind the above. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Michael J. Sgarlat Attorney at Law | Michael Joseph Sgarlat
    Yes, but you have to show that the dog had previously bitten someone or at least that the dog is vicious.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Law Offices of Richard Copeland, LLC
    Law Offices of Richard Copeland, LLC | Richard Copeland
    Dog owners normally have a duty to restrain their animals. If the facts are as you have presented them, you could have a claim against the dog owner. The facts will determine the outcome of the claim, but the question that comes immediately to mind is the collectability of any judgment you get. There is a strong possibility that the dog owner will not have any assets to pay the judgment, and many apartment dwellers to not have insurance to cover such injuries. While you may have a good case on facts, it is not very helpful unless you can collect against the dog owner.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Chalat Hatten Koupal & Banker PC
    Chalat Hatten Koupal & Banker PC | Linda Chalat
    A dog owner is responsible for her dog's actions in any public area, including an apartment hallway. The injured woman may bring a claim against the dog owner for assault and for negligence. From your description of the facts, it appears as if a strong case can be made against the dog owner, however the next consideration would be whether the dog owner has any assets with which to compensate the injured victim. If the dog owner has renters' insurance there may be coverage, or if the apartment owner knew of the aggressive behavior of this dog and allowed it to remain in the building, then a claim may brought against landlord.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    2 parts maybe. See what the leash law says in your locale does it cover inside private residence hall? Also, question whether the dog has vicious propensities. If so, owner may be clearly liable. I might file the case anyway if that happened to my mom or my wife and see what a jury would do with it. problem is there may not be any insurance coverage for that type cse. You might get a judgment you cant collect. See a good PI lawyer to look at all these notions
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O.
    The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O. | Eric R. Chandler
    Yes. possibly. The fact scenario you describe would be very detail specific. Dog bites are basically strict liability; however, a dog knocking a person down is a little different. A fractured pelvis is a significant enough injury to where it would be worth your time to consult with an injury lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    Sure. The standard is simple negligence: what would a ordinary person do under similar circumstances. Depending on the ordinances in your area, this might even be a strict liability case. You should consult a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C.
    DEAN T. JENNINGS, P.C. | Dean T Jennings
    Yes, but you must prove that the dog has bitten someone before, and also you should try to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog would bite people.
    Answer Applies to: Iowa
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    Florida has strict liability for dog bites, and that includes people being injured in general by dogs. If she knows who owns the dog, she should contact that person's homeowner's insurance which will most likely compensate her for her injuries.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Adler Law Group, LLC
    Adler Law Group, LLC | Lawrence Adler
    Yes. Dog Statutes in Connecticut apply to all accidents caused by a dog. You will recovery fully in all likelihood if the owner has insurance or assets.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    Dog owners are liable for any injuries caused by a dog attack. Usually this involves dogs biting or mauling an individual. In this case, I believe the dog owner would be liable, but the dog owner may argue that it is not the dog's fault because the dog did not actually bite or attack the victim. Obtaining compensation will depend largely on whether the dog owner has any assets from which a judgment can be collected. Apartment dwellers usually do not have much in assets and are thus what we call "judgment proof". The victim may get a monetary judgment that she will be unable to collect. The key would be finding some insurance coverage. To do this, you would probably have to somehow establish liability on the part of the Apartment Complex, but I don't see any liability on their part.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Andrews & Sanders Law Office
    Andrews & Sanders Law Office | Richard A Sanders Jr
    The answer is anyone can file a lawsuit. The owner could be held liable for her dog's actions. I think this would fall under the same line of cases regarding dog bites. It depends on the dog's history. Has the dog ever been aggressive in the past? Was the owner negligent in not having the dog leashed? Look at city ordinances as a good source for leash requirements. Look at OCGA 51-2-7. Lady's injuries sound severe enough that it would seem more investigation is warranted.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator | Bernard Huff
    Yes, if the dog's owner was negligent in not restraining his/her dog. The injurewd party should cpnsult with a personal injury lawyer for specific advice and direction.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Paris Blank LLP
    Paris Blank LLP | Irving M Blank
    There are local ordinances called leash laws that govern control of dogs. You need to read your local ordinance. If that does not help, you may still have a case depending on the owner's conduct.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Lombardi Law Firm
    Lombardi Law Firm | Steve Lombardi
    Yes. If a dog is not restrained and that violates local law they can be sued for the damages to the victim. It might be helpful to interview the building or apartment management to determine if there were other incidents involving this dog. As a lawyer I would also check veterinary records to determine the size and weight of the dog along with disposition. As for the question of compensation, it will depend on whether or not the apartment owner has liability insurance coverage. If not there may not be any insurance to cover the damages. This is a complicated matter requiring investigation by a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Iowa
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    The Law Firm of Reed & Mansfield
    The Law Firm of Reed & Mansfield | Jonathan C. Reed
    I think the injured woman has a good case against the dog owner from the facts you describe. The big question is whether the woman or her attorney can collect a judgment from the dog owner. If the dog owner has renter's insurance, the policy may include liability coverage for an incident like this. If the dog owner is uninsured chances of collecting on a judgment would depend on the financial situation of the dog owner. There might or might not be a claim against the apartment owner, depending on all of the facts.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Downriver Injury and Auto Law | Michael Heilmann
    Most cities have a law which requires a dog to be controlled by a leash. The failure to leash the dog makes the owner responsible for all the harm and damages that they cause. We have handled many cases just like this and obtained compensation for the victim.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry | Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Most cities or counties have "leash laws" that require a dog to be on a leash anytime the dog is away from the owner's premises. This sounds like the best possibility for a recovery. Seek legal advice immediately from an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases in your area.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Attorney at Law | Ernest Krause
    According to the facts you state it seems the dog owner could have actually prevented the dog from causing the injury. That makes the dog owner prima facie liable. Maybe the dog owner would say the dog has always been docile and no one could have anticipated the event or controlled the dog. So, does the dog owner have strict liability due to the dog being unleashed or is it a case of negligence? Based on what you say the damages are substantial enough that an attorney would take the case. The big question is what assets the dog owner has. Insurance coverage?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Merdes & Merdes, P.C.
    Merdes & Merdes, P.C. | Ward Merdes
    Yes, you can sue the owner of a dog that hurts somebody. Be careful though: There are defenses - specifically whether the dog had any history of being "dangerous." She might also want to inquire as to whether the landlord had a policy, screening "appropriate" pets. This one does not sound appropriate for the apartment building. There is also the question of whether the dog-owner has any insurance or money to help the injured (older) lady. It doesn't make sense to go through all the trouble of suing somebody who has nothing to their name. You end up winning the battle and losing the war. Also, keep an eye on the two-year Statute of Limitations for injury to adults in Alaska. It is VERY important. The (older) lady must either bring a lawsuit or settle her claims within two years of her fall, or she will be stripped of valuable legal rights - including the right to compensation. Call a qualified personal injury attorney today.
    Answer Applies to: Alaska
    Replied: 1/30/2012
    Goodman & Goodman PA | Bruce Elliott Goodman
    The answer to this question will depend on the jurisdiction, the jurisdiction's leash laws. The victim should consult a lawyer immediately regarding this matter.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C.
    Joel H. Schwartz, P.C. | Steven A. Schwartz
    In Massachusetts, injuries caused by dogs fall under strict liability. This means you don't need to show fault. If the dog caused injury, the dog owner is responsible. Given the serious pelvic injury, I strongly suggest you seek experienced legal counsel immediately.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    Yes, yes and yes. This is an excellent case in all aspects.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/30/2013
    Magnuson Lowell P.S.
    Magnuson Lowell P.S. | Richard S. Lowell
    Yes you can sue the owner. I once was involved in a similar case - where an elderly woman was walking down a sidewalk and a dog that had been playing in the front yard ran up to her and start barking and circling around her. She ended up backing up - tripping - and fracturing her hip. The issue is going to ultimately be: Does the dog owner have renter's insurance or some other significant assets? If not, you can win the battle but lose the war. A judgment against someone is only of value if they have assets or insurance to collect.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
    R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C. | Robert Kelly
    RCW 16.08.080 addresses dog bite liability.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    The dog owners can be held liable if it can be shown that the dogs were vicious; that they bit or threatened someone before or were known to be difficult to control or of a mean temperment. From what you describe, the situation is even more compelling than the usual dog bite case; you state that the dog's owner was present and failed to control it. If she can prove that, then there is a very strong liability case. Collecting any judgment is a different matter. If the dog owner lives in that apartment complex, he/she might not have insurance to cover this, and who knows if that person has any money to pay a judgment if one is rendered in favor of the victim. But, it is possible that the apartment complex owners can be held liable also if it can be shown that they knew or should have known that someone had vicious dogs on the property, that they had an opportunity to have it removed, and failed to do so.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    They key to winning a dog "bite" (or knockdown) case is proving that the owner knew about the dog's vicious or dangerous propensities before the incident. Has the dog acted that way int the past? Can you prove it? I like the case. The injury is worth pursuing and I'll bet the dog has been acting the same way for a long, long time.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    Shaw Law Firm
    Shaw Law Firm | Steven L. Shaw
    The simple answer is, probably, but this kind of claim should be thoroughly examined by a good premises liability attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    One can always sue. Obtain a judgemnt and then collect is another issue. There is a criminal case where a person failed to properly control a dog which killed another person. So the injured lady may have a case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    McKell Christiansen
    McKell Christiansen | Michael McKell
    An attorney would certainly need more facts about the situation but yes you may be able to sue based on the fact you described.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 1/28/2012
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm
    Bulman Law Associates PLLC Injury Law Firm | Thomas Bulman
    The dog owner is responsible for the dog. Are there independent witnesses who could testify about the dog's barking? The real problem will be collecting anything from the dog's owner.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 1/27/2012
    Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter | Melvin B. Wright
    Yes to all but the last question. As to that question it depends on the existence of liability insurance coverage or collectible assets.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 1/27/2012
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