Need Legal Help for Your Business? Find It Here
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Need Legal Help for Your Business? Find It Here

When my husband I decided to start a business, we didn't think about the legal aspects of doing so. We didn't realize that purchasing business insurance, getting building permits and making investments all required some type of legal advice. But after speaking to a close friend, who also happens to own a small business, we contacted a business attorney. Now, we have the legal smarts to make the best decisions for our business, as well as the legal representation in case something happens to our company. I hope that you find my blog helpful and informative for your own business. It's a great resource for finding the legal advice, resources and guidance you need to get your company up and running.

Need Legal Help for Your Business? Find It Here

Can You Sue Your Neighbor For Feeding Wildlife That Later Caused Harm?

Ronnie Mills

If one of your neighbors has been putting out food to attract wildlife, and a wild animal has done substantial damage to your property or injured someone in your family, you may have a personal injury case. During a free consultation, a lawyer considers various aspects of this somewhat unusual situation. He or she can confirm whether you should request a settlement from the neighbor's homeowners insurance company.

Had You Asked Your Neighbor to Stop Feeding Wildlife?

If you had requested an end to this activity, tell your lawyer the details of the communication. You may not be able to prove that you asked, but perhaps you were with someone else when you approached your neighbor with the request. Perhaps you sent the request in writing or through email so that you would have a copy. 

Had You Reported the Activity to Law Enforcement?

In some jurisdictions, feeding certain wildlife species is illegal. There are various reasons for this, in addition to the fact that wild animals may attack a person or pet, or damage property. Feeding wildlife sometimes is harmful to the animals, even when people mean well. For instance, feeding stations attract more animals, which can lead to increased breeding among these animals. This can result in an unsustainable population that is vulnerable to starvation. 

Some wild animals are generally more dangerous than others. It's safe to say that most people don't want bears or cougars roaming the neighborhood. However, feeding animals not normally considered dangerous also may be illegal for various reasons. Examples include seagulls, deer and feral cats. 

When Is the Other Property Owner Considered Liable?

The other property owner may be considered responsible under legal aspects such as causation, negligence causing harm, creating a nuisance and premises liability. Since the animals are intrinsically wild, this individual may say he or she has no control over what they do or their presence on the land.

However, if the person's behavior has contributed to the wildlife being on the property, he or she may still be considered liable, as noted on page 7 of the November 2013 issue of New Mexico Lawyer. Again, the various legalities of the circumstances depend on your jurisdiction.

In some cases, a property owner may be legally considered the owner of animals if he or she has been feeding them. A municipality or county may consider feral cats or wild dogs to be legally owned by someone providing those animals with a refuge. 

What Types of Damages Can You Expect a Settlement to Pay For?

Before requesting a settlement, your lawyer will make a list of your expenses and also determine a monetary amount for any intangible damages you and your family had to deal with during this situation. These might include:

  • damage to agricultural crops
  • damage to buildings or fences
  • medical expenses for an injury caused by the animal
  • lost wages during recovery time
  • pain and suffering, including emotional trauma

If the worst has occurred and a wild animal has caused a fatality, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although most people think of fatalities connected with wildlife attacks in regard to large animals, smaller animals sometimes are dangerous. For instance, some raccoons are infected with rabies. 

What Can You Do Now?

If your neighbor was intentionally attracting wildlife with food, and this action was illegal, he or she may receive a hefty fine from a government agency. However, that doesn't necessarily mean you can successfully sue for damages if you knew about the activity and never tried to stop it. Nevertheless, these cases are complex, and your neighbor still may be considered legally liable for any problems those wild animals caused. 

Contact a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. You'll learn whether you have a good case and if it makes sense to request a settlement.