What damages is an owner entitled to if their dog was attacked by another dog?

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What damages is an owner entitled to if their dog was attacked by another dog?

I was walking my small dog, 14 lbs., and we were attacked by a large Rott that was not chained up. The insurer just wants to pay pet clinic bill of $1500. Is that right? Wife had to stay home from work to hand feed dog. We took him back to clinic 3 or 4 times. He had drain tubes in him that had to be cleaned. He hardly moved for 3 days.

Asked on December 27, 2010 under Insurance Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have the option to reject the offer from the insurance carrier.  In addition to the medical bill, the offer should have included your wife's wage loss for staying home with the dog.   Aside from that , the settlement offer is unrealistically low. Another issue to explore is whether in addition to the medical bill, a pet's owner can receive additional compensation for the pet's pain and suffering.  An injured human would receive compensation for pain and suffering.  I am not familiar with whether or not compensation for pain and suffering would be applicable for a pet. You can file a lawsuit against the owner for negligence and possibly strict liability if this is not the first incident in which the dog attacked.  You will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.

Negligence is based on the duty to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to avoid forseeable harm).  A reasonable person would have kept the Rottweiler chained or otherwise controlled to prevent it from attacking.  By failing to keep the Rottweiler chained or otherwise under the control of the owner, the owner breached a duty of care to prevent foreseeable harm.  In addition to breach of duty of care, negligence requires establishing actual cause and proximate cause.  Actual cause means but for the dog not being chained would your dog have been attacked?  If the answer is no (which appears to be the case), actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable intervening events that caused your dog to be attacked  which would relieve the owner of the Rottweiler from liability?  If the answer is no, then proximate cause has been established and the Rottweiler's owner would be liable for negligence.

If there is a law in your state that requires a dog to be chained or on a leash, then violation of the statute would establish negligence.

Strict liability means that the owner of the Rottweiler is liable whether or not the owner exercised due care.  In order for strict liability to be applicable, there must have been at least one prior similar incident of the dog attacking/biting a person or some other pet.


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