If I was accidentally injured while at an animal shelter to look for my dog, can I sue?

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If I was accidentally injured while at an animal shelter to look for my dog, can I sue?

This morning I went to the Animal Shelter to look for my dog. As I was walking through the room where the dogs are, one of them jumped up and pushed the kennel door and caused it to open. You would think that it would be impossible to open from inside, but caused it to fly open as I was walking by. It hit me really hard on my left shoulder. I went out and told the lady at the front desk but she didn’t seem to care much. My arm is really hurting now; it’s sore, tense and hurting more while I am doing my job. Do I have a case? I did file a report at the shelter.

Asked on September 17, 2014 under Personal Injury, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First, if  there is no significant physical damage--e.g. no broken bone, damaged cartilege, serious sprain--there's no point in even thinking about suing. A lawsuit only provides you compensation for actual costs or losses, or, for serious injuries that cause demonstrable life impairment for weeks or months, some amount (often modest, unless there is permanent or quite-long-lasting injury) of "pain and suffering." So say that you do not go to a doctor or have medical costs and only experience some pain for a week or two--you would get nothing or next to nothing from a lawsuit, even if you won.

Second, even if you had a serious injury, it's not a given that the shelter would be liable--they may be; it's just not a given. For liability, there must have been fault, such as negligence, or unreasonable carelessness; for example, that they did not properly secure the cage door. On the other hand, if there was no negligence--they latched the door properly, but it was a fluke that the dog knocked it open--they would not be liable.

From what you write, there is a reasonable chance of liability--it's likely they did not properly secure the cage in one way or another--but it's not a given, so there's a chance of losing if you sued; and more importantly, even if you sued and won, for the amount of injury you describe right now, you might not be able to recover any money, and if you did recover something, it might not even offset the cost of the lawsuit.


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