Am I liable for an injury to a child if they tried to either open my gate and/or tried to pet my dog and got bitten?

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Am I liable for an injury to a child if they tried to either open my gate and/or tried to pet my dog and got bitten?

I was outside pulling weeds and 5-6 kids came up to gate started talking to my kids. They had a dog with them, no leash, etc. and it got my dog excited. I told the kids to get away from the gate because the dog didn’t not know them. They ignored me and a 2 year-old in a diaper tried opening the gate or tried petting the dog, not sure. Needless to say the dog nipped her hand. Animal control said everything on my side was fine. But was wondering how liable am I?

Asked on July 25, 2011 New Mexico

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As the owner of the property, you would be liable for the child's injury even though the child was a trespasser.  It would be advisable to refer the matter to your homeowners insurance carrier.  The insurance carrier will handle the personal injury claim.  The personal injury claim will consist of the medical bills and compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  The medical reports will be used to determine the amount of compensation for pain and suffering.  If the case is not settled with your insurance carrier, a lawsuit could be filed against you for negligence, but your insurance carrier will provide you with an attorney at no cost to you, and the insurance company will handle the case for you.  If the case is settled with the insurance company, no lawsuit is filed.  If the case is not settled with the insurance company, the child's parents will need to file their lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or their lawsuit will be barred.


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