Visitor Question

Getting sued after my dog nipped and scratched a girl’s face…

Submitted By: Sandra (Dallas, TX)

My daughter invited her friend over without my permission and I was not home at the time. My daughter and her friend played for a while and then they decided to go outside. My daughter was holding our dog by its collar so her friend could go outside when her friend wanted to pet the dog.

My daughter told her “NO”, not to pet the dog but the little girl said if I pet him he will get used to me and not bark at me anymore. The little girl tried to pet the dog and the dog reacted and lunged forward and nipped her in the face.

She now has a scratch on the top of her nose and side of the cheek. Her face was very swollen and it looked bad because of the swelling but there were no holes in her face. The dog’s teeth did not puncture her skin. I am now being sued by the mother. What can I do?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Sandra,

If you are being sued in small claims court you can represent yourself. If you have been sued in a higher court you’ll need to retain an attorney.

If you are a homeowner, contact your homeowners insurance company immediately to report the incident and the lawsuit. You almost certainly have a legal duty to do so under the terms of your homeowners insurance contract. If you don’t notify your insurance company about the lawsuit they may not be responsible if any adverse legal action is later taken against you or your personal assets.

Because, in addition to the pain and discomfort, there exists a possibility of scarring, the claim against you may be substantial. You must defend yourself and do so promptly. The purported defense of your daughter telling the young girl not to pet the dog is weak. Presuming your child is a minor, you will most likely be held responsible for her actions.

If you do nothing and the case proceeds, there is a distinct possibility a judgment will be taken against you. With a judgment, the child’s parents may be able to place a lien on your personal property and assets. Because Texas is a “Homestead State” the judgment would not be enforceable against your home.

The sooner you take action to defend yourself, the better.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: November 13, 2012

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