What Should I Do if My Neighbor's Dog Bites Me?
Dogs are man’s best friend (most dogs, anyway), but when they become vicious and aggressive, the owner is legally responsible for taking reasonable steps to keep the dog from hurting others. Dog bite cases are common in Georgia, as is the commonly asked question, “What should I do if my neighbor’s dog bites me?” Dog bite laws can be a bit tricky here in Georgia because the law does not automatically place liability on the owner. It’s incumbent on the victim to demonstrate that a) the dog is in fact vicious; b) he/she did nothing to provoke the dog; and c) the neighbor was careless or negligent. That said, here are some steps to take if you are bitten by a neighbor’s dog.
1. Get medical attention.Regardless of legal remedies, your health is the first priority. Dogs can transmit rabies and other diseases, so not only should you get treatment for any injury, but also precautionary treatments against any possible diseases. Get treatment now; find fault later.
2. Document what happened.Explain in your own words, whether by audio recording or writing it down, exactly what happened, and how it happened. The sooner you document this information, the less likely you are to forget important details.
3. Determine whether negligence played a role.Is this the first time the dog has bitten anyone? Has the neighbor been previously warned about the dog’s behavior? Have you told the neighbor the dog makes you uncomfortable, and if so, did the neighbor do anything to keep the dog restrained? Is there anything the neighbor should have done that they didn’t, or any situation in which the neighbor showed carelessness? Could anything you did be construed as “provocation” of the animal? Document any evidence that points to negligence because it may be important later.
4. Talk to your neighbor.Because you may have to deal with your neighbor for some time to come after this instance, if you can resolve any differences with your neighbor one-on-one, this is always the best case scenario. Talk to your neighbor calmly and rationally, to whatever extent possible, and explain your complaint. A responsible neighbor might even offer to help with medical bills and to help ensure a repeat instance does not occur. If you can resolve the issue amicably, all the better.
5. Talk to an attorney.It may be time to discuss the issue with a personal injury attorney, preferably one with expertise in dog bite cases, if:
- The neighbor is being uncooperative, and you are unable to resolve the problem on your own.
- The neighbor continues to let the dog loose or shows carelessness in restraining the dog.