When Friendly Dogs Attack: Can I Sue my Neighbor?

| December 15, 2013

dogDogs are the most popular pet found in American households. Over half of the households in the country claim to own a dog, and most people say that their lives would not be complete if they did not have the friendship of their pet. However, dogs are still animals, and at times they bite.

In most cases, if a dog bites someone, they can seek compensation from its owner with the help of Chicago injury lawyers or attorneys in one’s local area.  However, there are a few instances where the owner may not be held liable for a dog bite. These include:

  • When the dog bite happens as a result of someone entering the property of the owner. Guests assume the risk of being confronted by a dog when they willingly enter the property of another person. This “rule” is not black and white, and there can be some exceptions made.
  • When the dog is attacked first. If a person is physically aggressive towards a dog, it should be anticipated that the dog will attack.
  • When the dog is injured. If you are bitten by a dog when you are trying to help them when they are injured, it is a risk you assumed and not the liability of the owner.

It should also be noted that most states have a rule that is often referred to as “first time free.” This means that the first time a dog bites someone, unless it is a vicious attack where the dog hunted down its prey, the State will forgive the dog and give the owner a warning. No liability will be placed on the owner at that time. However, if the dog bites again, it will be considered a dangerous dog due to its previous action.

When Attacked by a Neighbor’s Dog

The very first thing that you should do is call the police and make a report, if the injury is serious, inform the police that you are on the way to the emergency room for medical care. In most cases, they will allow you to file a report after you have been treated.

Since this is assumed to be the liability of the dog owner, you have two choices for having your medical care covered. You can either confront your neighbor calmly to ask for compensation for your damages, or you can hire a dog bite attorney. Your attorney can file a claim against the homeowners policy of the dog owner, or the owner themselves if it is allowed under the law.

You may also need the assistance of an attorney to fight the homeowner’s policy to cover the event. Many people purchase policies that specifically state that they will not cover animal attacks that occur from certain breeds of dogs. An attorney will do what it takes at that point to see compensation for you, even if it means suing the neighbor directly.

The best thing you can do is always try to stay safe when you are around strange dog. If one comes running at you, remain very still, they will usually stop because they are curious as to why you are not moving. Never lunge forward at a dog, or approach a dog you do not know. Never interrupt a dog while it is eating, and never try to encourage strange dogs with food. While these suggestions may not prevent all dog attacks, it can reduce the amount that occurs.

Lisa Coleman is a freelance writer who once owned a dog that frequently attacked people. People who incur injuries due to the negligence of another person or their property should seek legal advice. For advice on steps you should take after an attack, try searching the term Chicago injury lawyers online.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71753457@N00/921171607/

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