Hopefully you are never bitten by a neighbor's dog. However, since a lot of people have dogs and there is not a lot you can do to avoid being bitten by an aggressive dog who is intent on biting you, there is a chance this will happen in your lifetimes. If you are ever bitten, it is important to keep this list of dos and don'ts in mind so that you're able to get the care and compensation you deserve.
Do: Seek medical care.
Even if the bite was a minor one, you absolutely must head to the hospital. Dogs can spread various diseases via their saliva. Rabies is the best-known one, but they can also spread the less dangerous Pasteurella or MRSA infection. By visiting the hospital, you ensure the risk of disease is mitigated. If you end up having to sue your neighbor or their insurance company, you then also have the medical records to prove the extent of your injury. And the insurance company won't be able to claim that your injury would not be so severe had you simply sought medical care!
Don't: Lie and say your own dog bit you.
When you arrive at the hospital for care, you will probably be asked whose dog bit you. The local health departments and dog control departments usually want to collect this information to be sure threatening dogs are dealt with appropriately. Some people lie and say their own dog bit them because they do not want to get their neighbors into legal trouble or anger them. However, this is not a smart choice for two reasons:
- Your own dog may be labeled a danger, even though it is not, leading to consequences with animal control.
- If your medical costs end up being high and unmanageable, you will have a tough time getting your neighbor's homeowner's insurance to cover the cost when you initially said your dog was to blame.
Do: Be understanding toward your neighbor.
It is understandable that you are mad about this situation. However, you must be careful not to act out in anger towards your neighbor. You have to continue to live next to them, so remaining calm about the situation is best for everyone. If your neighbor is acting in an angry and harassing way towards you, then stop communicating with them. Hire an attorney, and direct all communication to them through your attorney. You've already been the victim of a dog bite—you don't deserve to be victimized by an angry neighbor, too.
Don't: Automatically sue your neighbor.
Keep in mind that this is not some stranger, and they do deserve some level of respect. As long as they are being generally cooperative about the situation, you should attempt to get your medical expenses and other expenses related to the bite covered by their homeowner's insurance company before you attempt to sue them. Work with your neighbor to file out the claim paperwork, and submit all evidence of the incident to their insurance company.
Do: Contact a lawyer if the claim is denied.
If the insurance company refuses to honor your claim or offers you far less money than needed to cover the cost of your injuries, you should reach out to a personal injury attorney. The insurance company might deny your claim if they did not know your neighbor had a dog, or if your neighbor's dog is a breed that they don't cover. A lawyer can guide you through the process of suing either the neighbor, their insurance company, or maybe both—so that you're not left paying for your medical costs out of your own pocket.