Am I liable for a medical bill regarding a dog bite to the child of a neighbor who was feeding our dog while we were away?

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Am I liable for a medical bill regarding a dog bite to the child of a neighbor who was feeding our dog while we were away?

Our neighbor offered to feed our 2 dogs while we were on vacation. She brought her child with her one day and after giving them food, turned around to give them water, and the child approached and said one of the dogs bit him. She now wants us to pay the bill. Am I liable?

Asked on August 26, 2011 Georgia

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As the owner of the property, you are liable for the medical bill of the child, who was bitten by your dog.  The neighbor was a guest on your property and whether the child is considered a guest or a trespasser, you would still be liable for the child's injury.  In addition to the medical bill, your liability for the child's injury could also include compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for the medical bill is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bill.  The medical report which documents the nature and extent of the injury is used to determine compensation for pain and suffering.

In dog bite cases, the owner of the dog is liable for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable dog owner would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  This applies even though you weren't present when the dog bit your neighbor's child.

If there had been a previous incident or previous incidents of the dog biting someone, then the owner of the dog is liable according to strict liability for the current incident in which the child was bitten.  Strict liability is liability whether or not there was due care.

It would be advisable to refer the matter to your homeowner's insurance company.


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