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?

UPDATED: Aug 26, 2011

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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


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

Answered 11 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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