If I have a home day care, what is my liability if my dog bit a child?

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If I have a home day care, what is my liability if my dog bit a child?

My dog bit a day care child and the child required stitches on his lip. The child was back in day care within a few days and continued in our day care for the next 6 months until his dad contacted a lawyer and removed the child. They filed a claim against our homeowner’s insurance but was denied because the insurance didn’t cover the business. They are asking for $20,000 for disfigurement even though there’s barely a scar; and $50,000 for pain and suffering even though the child was back in day care within a few days. If they end up taking us to court and there’s a judgement against us where does that money come from? We live paycheck to paycheck and have no other assets except our house and 1 vehicle.

Asked on October 28, 2015 under Personal Injury, Kansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) d on what you write, you are most likely liable: it is likely negligent, or unreasonably careless, to allow your personal dog to mix with children you are caring for, especially when you could have easily separated the dog and kept it away, by crating it, locking it in a different room, chaining it up or putting it in a dog run outside, etc. The failure to do was careless, since there's a reasonable chance that a dog, whether viscious or not, would bite one or another of the children at some point. 
2) You could be liable for medical bills--either to them or, if they were paid by their insurance, to their insurer (which can recover its payments from you). You could also be liable for "pain and suffering" in an amount related to or commensurate with (i.e. equivalent to) any disfigurement or life impairment the child suffered. The amount they are seeking seems excessive, but pain and suffering awards are very subjective: juries do sometimes give awards that are larger than expected. Certainly, if sued, it's not unreasonable to think they could win thousands of dollars from you.
3) If you don't have insurance to cover any judgment or award, the money has to come from you. If you don't or can't pay it all at once, they could put a lien on your home, garnish your income, possibly have your vehicle seized and sold, etc. 
4) If you get a judgment against you which you can't afford, filing for bankruptcy (which works against judgments like this) may be a good option.


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