What to do if I was bitten by a dog in a house being rented by the dog’s owners?

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What to do if I was bitten by a dog in a house being rented by the dog’s owners?

They refuse to pay for any medical bills. If I take them to small claims court and I win but they still refuse to pay the medical bills, am I held responsible for the bills being paid or are the dog’s owners?

Asked on May 8, 2013 under Personal Injury, North Carolina

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

When you complete your medical treatment and are released by the doctor or are declared by the doctor to be permanent and stationary, which means having reached a point in your medical treatment where no further improvement is anticipated, obtain your medical bills, medical reports, and documentation of any wage loss.  Your personal injury claim should include these items.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  The medical reports will document the nature and extent of your injury and will be used to determine compensation for pain and suffering, which is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement.

Contact the landlord and obtain insurance information.  Your personal injury claim should be filed with the landlord's insurance carrier and should include the medical bills, medical reports and documentation of wage loss.  If the case is settled with the landlord's insurance carrier, NO lawsuit is filed.  If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the landlord's insurance carrier, reject the settlement offers and file a lawsuit against the landlord based on premises liability and also name the dog owners as defendants.  In addition to your cause of action (claim) in your lawsuit based on premises liability against the landlord, you should have a separate cause of action (claim) against the dog owners for negligence if this is the first time the dog has bitten anyone.  If the dog has bitten someone in the past, then your cause of action against the dog owners would be strict liability instead of 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).

Strict liability is liability whether or not due was exercised.  Again, strict liability would be applicable if the dog has a history of biting.  If this is the first incident of biting, then your cause of action against the dog owners would be for negligence instead of strict liability.

If the case is NOT settled, you will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

The landlord and dog owners are liable for your bills.  You are not responsible for the bills.

You don't want to file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court because that will limit the amount you can recover which may not adequately compensate you for pain and suffering.  File your lawsuit in a higher court in your state.  This may be Superior Court or it may have a different name in your state.  If you get a judgment against the culpable parties and they don't pay, you can enforce the judgment against the landlord by placing a lien on his/her property.  You can enforce the judgment against the dog owners with a wage garnishment.


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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