Can I sue my neighbor for their pet biting me?

I was outside next to my car which was in my landlord’s parking lot. I was approached by a cat which I assumed was a stray. It was friendly and came right up to me without me paying any attention to it, and it bit me hard on the calf while I was walking away from it and then it chased me. I went to the ER and I had to receive rabies shots since my boyfriend and the police could not locate the cat. Later that night we located the cat and found out it belonged to a neighbor. The neighbor acknowledged it was theirs and took the cat back from us.

I now have a bill after my insurance of over 3,800 and I cannot afford even the minimum payments on this. Can I sue them? I’ve already sent them a letter explaining the situation and they have not responded. I don’t know what else to do.

Asked on October 4, 2017 under Personal Injury, Wisconsin


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Both your landlord and the neighbor (cat owner) are liable for your injury.
The landlord is liable because you were injured on his/her property.  It would be advisable to notify the landlord's insurance carrier in writing that you will be filing a personal injury claim.
Your claim filed with the landlord's insurance carrier should include your medical bills, medical reports, and if applicable, documentation of wage loss.
Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  The medical reports document the injury and are used to determine compensation for pain and suffering which is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement.
If the case is settled with the landlord's insurance carrier, NO lawsuit is filed against the landlord.
If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the landlord's insurance carrier, reject the settlement offers and file a lawsuit against the landlord and apartment complex for premises liability.
If the case is NOT settled, your lawsuit must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.
Your neighbor is liable for negligence which is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable cat owner would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).
If this is the first incident of the cat biting, your neighbor is liable for negligence.  If the cat has a history of biting, your neighbor is liable for negligence and strict liability.  Strict liability imposes liability whether or not due care was exercised.
Negligence and strict liability are separate causes of action (claims) in your lawsuit against the neighbor.  Your damages (monetary compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit) would be compensation for the medical bills, compensation for pain and suffering, and wage loss as discussed above.
The lawsuit against your neighbor must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

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