My Neighbor’s Dog Bit My Child. Should I Sue?

February 27, 2015

Being the victim of a dog attack can be a traumatizing event in anyone’s life, but this is particularly true if the subject of the attack is a child. Children are the most likely victims of dog bites. More than 50% of dog bite victims in the United States are children under the age of 12. Even a seemingly minor bite from a smaller dog can affect a child’s relationship with animals and many children suffer from emotional stress or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a bite and need trauma counseling. Victims can require stitches, rabies vaccinations, and even plastic surgery in some cases. After an attack, it’s important to consider legal options to determine whether litigation is appropriate.

The Dog Bite Statute

In Wisconsin, the “Dog Bite Statute” (as it is commonly known) is quite clear: an owner is liable for their dog’s behavior, whether or not the owner is negligent. An owner is liable even if the incident occurred during what might be characterized as “innocent conduct” by the dog, such as playing, jumping and running. Despite being referred to as the “Dog Bite Statute”, a bite is not required. The dog must simply “cause injury to a person, domestic animal, or property.”

Additionally, the law includes a “double damage” provision. If the dog’s owner knows or has been notified that the dog had previously bitten or caused injury to a person, domestic animal, or property, that owner is liable for “two times the full amount of damages caused by the dog.” Liability can increase if the dog owner is found to have been negligent in their care for the dog.

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether to sue a dog owner. The extent of the injuries to your child and any lasting trauma should be first on that list. If your child is attacked by a dog, first call 911 and seek medical treatment. It’s also important to file a complaint with your local animal control department. They may also be able to help identify the dog’s owner if that is unclear at the time of the attack. Photograph your child’s injuries and, if possible, the dog and any other evidence that is related to the attack.

If your child has been bitten by a dog and you want to take legal action against the owner, contact the Welcenbach Law Offices today to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney.