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How much of a neighbor's vet bill am I legally responsible for paying?

Q:

I was walking my 65 lb. dog on a leash when I did not see a young girl carrying her small dog with friends (no leash) come up behind us and scare us. My dog jumped up and scratched the small dog. The mother of the child later sent over a police officer and nothing was done and no report was written up. This happened in the beginning of June and July 22nd I was given a vet bill for over $4,000.00 - how much of that bill am I responsible for?

A:

State and local laws concerning dog bites vary throughout the country. New Jersey is what is known as a ‘strict liability’ state in that 'owners' of dogs are generally liable for injuries to humans caused by their dogs (if the person bitten by the dog is in a place where the person is lawfully allowed to be). That law does not reference damage caused to other animals (although some other states’ laws do). However, there have been cases in New Jersey involving dog on dog attacks. In one such case involving an attack on the plaintiff’s small dog by a dog who trespassed onto her property, the court ordered the ‘owner’ of the trespassing dog to pay plaintiff $2500 to compensate the injured dog’s ‘owner’ for the expenses she incurred as a result of the injuries caused to her dog. The court stated, “It is purely a matter of ‘good sense’ that defendants be required to ‘make good the injury done’ as the result of their negligence by reimbursing plaintiff for the necessary and reasonable expenses she incurred to restore the dog to its condition before the attack.” The amount a court might order one to pay would be dependent on the facts of each case. Courts may consider the negligence of each party and if the ‘owner’ of the dog who attacked had prior knowledge of his/her dog’s dangerous propensities. When parties settle disputes out of court, a general release form stating that the payment is in full satisfaction of all claims is often used. Dog bites are also sometimes covered under one’s homeowner’s or other insurance policies.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

 

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