If a dog bite caused no physical injury, can the owner of the dog still be sued?

UPDATED: Aug 29, 2013

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If a dog bite caused no physical injury, can the owner of the dog still be sued?

I was at my boyfriend’s house and my a Chihuahua chased and nipped the neighbor girl who was running past the house.Skin was not broken but now the mom says the girl is having nightmares. Is there anyway they could sue either him or I?

Asked on August 29, 2013 under Personal Injury, Michigan


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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Since there wasn't any physical injury, the neighbor does not have much of a case.  If the neighbor's parent wants to pursue the mental aspect of the case, it would have to be proven that the nightmares are occurring and are caused by the incident with the dog.  This would mean going to a psychiatrist or psychologist and having the doctor write a medical report attributing the nightmares / psychological trauma to being chased by the dog.  The mental trauma aspect would be the only potential claim since there wasn't any physical injury.

If the neighbor filed a lawsuit on behalf of her daughter, she could name both you and your boyfriend as defendants.  Your boyfriend's liability would be based on premises liability since he is the owner of the property.

Your liability would be based on negligence as a dog owner.  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).  If this is the first incident of the dog biting, your liability would be based on negligence.  If the dog has a history of biting, your liability would be based on strict liability.  Strict liabiliity means you are liable whether or not due care was exercised.

In the event a lawsuit is filed, which I think is unlikely given the facts, your boyfriend should refer the matter to his homeowner's insurance carrier.

Neither you nor your boyfriend should worry about it.  If a claim is filed after the kid completes treatment with a psychiatrist or psychologist, the case may be settled with the homeowner's insurance carrier.  If it is settled, NO lawsuit is filed.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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