Owning and Renting Property

Your Neighbor’s Dog Attacks You: What Are Your Options?

  • 3 Minute Read
  • Shares

Even the friendliest dog can attack or bite someone if they are scared, stressed or provoked. More than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year. Nearly 20% of those victims require medical attention.

Liability for dog bites and other injuries

If you’re attacked by a neighbor’s dog, is your neighbor liable? Or what about if your dog bites your neighbor — are you liable for any injuries?

The answer will depend on the laws of your state and city. Generally, there are three types of dog-related liability laws:

  1. Dog-bite statutes. Under these laws, dog owners are automatically held responsible for any property damages or injuries their dogs cause without provocation. Note that if the owner can prove the dog was provoked, he or she may not be liable for any injuries or damages caused.
  2. One-bite rules. Dog owners can be held liable for dog-bite injuries if they knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury. In other words, victims must prove the owners knew their dogs posed a danger. The name of these types of laws comes from the idea that if the dog has bitten or attacked someone before, the owner was aware of the problem and should have done whatever possible to prevent any further attacks or bites.
  3. Negligence laws. Negligence laws hold dog owners responsible if an injury happened because the owner was careless in controlling the dog. These laws don’t just apply to dog attacks. An owner could also be held liable, for instance, if her friendly dog knocked someone over accidentally.

Check your state’s laws to see which statutes are in place to find out how much responsibility dog owners have if their dog causes harm.

Legal options: What to do if you get attacked by a dog

If you or someone in your household is attacked by a neighbor’s dog, you have several options. First, decide if you want to take any action at all.

If the injury is minor and you’re confident it’s an isolated incident, you may not feel the need to do anything (other than avoid the dog in the future). If you suffered a more serious injury on the other hand, you could ask the neighbor to voluntarily compensate you. Also, if you feel the dog presents an ongoing danger, you may want to report the incident to the police.

Compensation for your injury could include costs for:

  • Medical treatment related to the attack.
  • Income lost due to missed work.
  • Property that was destroyed or damaged (eyeglasses, clothing, etc.).
  • Any lasting disability or scar.
  • Emotional suffering.

Working with an attorney

If your neighbor won’t willingly cover these costs and you want to pursue legal action, contact an attorney who regularly handles dog-bite lawsuits.

In a dog-bite lawsuit, you could receive compensation through a court judgment or an out-of-court settlement. With a court judgment, the case goes to trial. You could receive a bigger settlement if you go this route — but that’s not guaranteed. If you settle out-of-court, you may get a smaller sum. But you’ll get your money (and be able to put the whole thing behind you) sooner.

Before taking any legal action, talk with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

Resources

All Learning Center Topics

View all Learning Center topics.

Legal Glossary

Find definitions of legal terms.