Q: While in my yard, my dog jumped against the brick wall, his head got over, and bit someone. What's my liability?
The person in question was walking to a communal mail box and there is about 3-4 feet of space between the wall and mail box. He got too close to the wall and was bit. The dog has never bit anyone before and has been located in the same part of the yard for over 2 years--so the person being bit has passed by this area multiple times. The dog does jump up against the wall when people walk by and will bark at people. Since the incident I have raised the wall and added "beware of dog" signs. My home owners insurance said they won't cover the incident and the person bit has retained an attorney. The bit punctured the skin and caused some light bleeding, but no major injuries were suffered. I'm in New Mexico. From what I read we don't have a strict dog bite statue.
A: It appears that New Mexico does not have a dog bite statute in place for strict liability. The dog bite victim will need to show a prior dog bite OR negligence on the part of the dog owner. The victim could argue that you knew or should have known of the dog's aggressiveness and dangerous propensities. Ultimately, it appears that the case will depend on the the facts and the assessment by the Judge or Jury as to negligence (if any) on your part. Many attorneys ultimately shy away from cases in which there is no homeowner's insurance to cover the dog bite related personal injuries.
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