Visitor Question

What are my dog attack options when the owner has no insurance?

Submitted By: Jeri (Lee's Summit, Missouri)

I was in my backyard trying to get my dog inside when my neighbors let out their aggressive pitbull. This dog pushed her way under my fence (which she has done many times) to come after my dog.

This time the pitbull made contact with my animal and was biting him trying to hurt him. I went down to get my dog and she bit my upper arm.

I required 2 stitches and a tetanus shot.

The pitbull’s owner is refusing to pay my medical bills and she does not have renter’s insurance. What are my options since the dog owner has no insurance and is refusing to pay my medical bills?

Thanks for any information you have for me.

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 Jeri,

You are on the right track when you mentioned insurance. Most homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies provide coverage to a dog’s owner if the dog bites or otherwise attacks someone.

In some states, a dog owner is strictly liable for any injuries caused by their pet, while in other states you would have to prove negligence on the part of the dog owner.

Even some automobile insurance policies will provide coverage for a dog bite if the bite occurs inside the car. Some insurance policies exclude coverage for certain breeds of dogs that are considered aggressive.

Unfortunately, if your neighbor did not have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance then your options are limited.

Your right to file a claim against your neighbor does not depend on them having insurance, but in the absence of insurance, your only hope for recovery is to sue them individually.

If you are successful in bringing a claim against your neighbors individually, you could obtain a judgment against them. The process, however, could be more expensive than it’s worth if your neighbors can’t pay the judgment.

It is important to note, however, that a judgment in Missouri is good for 10 years and can be renewed for an additional ten years. Who knows what your neighbor’s financial situation will be a decade from now – if you are willing and want to wait that long.

The other potential issue you face is that because your neighbors have no insurance, it may be difficult to find an attorney who is willing to handle the case on a contingency fee basis. In that situation, you would have to either handle the case yourself – that’s called pro se representation – or pay an attorney by the hour.

Small Claims Court

If your medical and other expenses don’t exceed $5000, you could bring a claim in Small Claims Court. Small Claims Court is designed to allow individuals like you to bring claims on their own behalf without the help of an attorney.

While it is still an official court proceeding, Small Claims Court has a much more relaxed atmosphere than in other courts. The Missouri Bar publishes a handbook that can guide you through the small claims process.

Finally, in the interest of safety, you might consider contacting a local animal control officer about your neighbor’s dog and its aggressive tendencies.

As with any situation where you have been injured because of the actions of someone else, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your options.

Learn more here: Compensation for Dog Attacks

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 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,

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