I Was Injured By My Neighbor’s Dog: Is My Neighbor Responsible For My Injuries?

Steven Kluender

The answer to this question is “Yes.” A Wisconsin statute, typically referred to as the “dog injury” statute, imposes strict liability on the owner of a dog for causing injury to a person, livestock or property. Strict liability means it is only necessary to prove who the owner of the dog is and that the dog caused injury.

In addition, the “dog injury” statute penalizes a dog owner if there is evidence that the owner was notified or knew that the dog previously injured or caused injury to a person, livestock or property. The penalty is liability for two times the full amount of damages. In other words, double damages.

The owner of a dog may have a defense against a claim if there is evidence that the injured party did something to contribute to his or her own injuries. For example, if the injured person taunts a dog so that the dog reacts and bites, the contributory negligence of the injured party may completely bar recovery, or at a minimum, reduce the amount of recovery. The only exception to this rule of contributory negligence is where the injured party is a child under the age of seven. In that case, the law assumes that anyone under seven years of age is incapable of being negligent for his or her own safety.

Examples of cases that fall under the “dog injury” statute, other than the typical dog bite situation, include the following: (1) The owner of a dog decides to take a walk along a country road. The owner takes the dog along and it darts into the road, right in front of a car. The driver of the car strikes the dog, loses control of the car, and sustains an injury. (2) A farmer is driving his tractor when the neighbor’s dog unexpectedly runs underneath the tractor. The farmer is startled, pops the clutch and falls off the tractor, sustaining significant injuries.

If you are a dog owner, the best security against a claim is to keep your dog on a leash or in a pen. When your dog is around children, close supervision is important.