Wife bit by neighbor's dogs...

by DC
(Odessa, FL)

Our neighbors moved in a year ago from upstate New York. They had 5-6 acres where their four dogs were allowed to run free. Saturday 1/24/15, my wife and I went to the neighbors' front door to ask them who put in their vinyl fence.

When the husband came to the door their four dogs came with him. When he opened the door to step out, all four dogs got out. One dog jumped up and bit my wife's wrist. The husband tried to pull the dog off, which he was able to do after a few moments. While he was ushering the dogs back toward the door another dog bit her on the thigh.

She was wearing a leather jacket so even though it protected her somewhat she did have puncture wounds and tears to the skin on her left wrist. On her thigh it also caused a tear to the skin, but no puncture, and bruised the surrounding area in about a 3"-4" diameter. We did take photos of the injuries.

She is at her doctor's this morning to get a tetanus shot. Stitches will not be necessary.

We found out that the dogs had already attacked another neighbor's small dog when the owner was walking it. They paid for the vet bills in that case. This will be reported to the county animal control by the doctor so they will have a record of dangerous dogs.

With the injuries being so minimal would this be worth pursuing, and if so, what would a ball park settlement be? Is there anything we should be doing to secure a case? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Wife bit by neighbor's dogs...":

DC (Odessa, FL):

From the facts you present, your neighbor is clearly liable for the injuries caused by his dog(s). Your wife did not contribute to her injuries, nor did she cause the dogs to attack her. Moreover, your neighbor can’t claim he was unaware of the dogs' propensity to attack human beings. This is especially true in light of the previous attack.

Fortunately, most homeowners insurance policies cover dog attacks and resulting injuries to third parties. With the MedPay option on homeowners claims there is no legal requirement the victim prove negligence as an antecedent to collecting compensation.

Homeowners insurance should cover your wife's medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses related to the injury, and lost wages (if applicable). Homeowners insurance does not cover pain and suffering. Fortunately, your wife's injuries were relatively minor, so the doctor’s bills should be minimal.

Ask the neighbor for his homeowners insurance contact information. Contact the insurance company and file claim. In the event the neighbor does not have homeowners insurance, you can ask the neighbor to reimburse you for your wife's medical bills and expenses.

If the neighbor does not cooperate, your wife can file a small claims lawsuit. In that suit your wife can ask for compensation not only for her medical bills and expenses, but also for her pain and suffering. In Florida, the maximum, or "jurisdictional" amount your wife can sue for in small claims court is $5,000.

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

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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