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Dog Bites and Other Disputes with Neighbors

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  • Saturday February 25th, 2012

Many attorneys have handled cases where a neighbor is suing another neighbor. Texas is no exception. There are a number of issues that can cause a rift between neighbors. For example, a neighbor not maintaining trees and shrubs that encroach on your property;  easements and rights to use parking areas, driveways, and alleys; or water rights on a certain property. Another common point of dispute – neighbors having unappealing vehicles on their property such as campers, big trucks, fifth wheels, large vans and other commercial vehicles or even boats and buses.  Last but not least, many problems arise over pets and particularly, mean or unruly dogs.

If your neighbor has a destructive dog who is continuously tearing up your fence or digging out and getting into your yard, you may be wondering what you can do about it. You may have a neighbor with a mean dog that has bitten or potentially could bite someone, and this could lead to a dog bite lawsuit.  Personal injury attorneys see dog bite claims every year.

To avoid a legal dispute, first you should try to take the diplomatic approach and do everything possible to reason with your neighbor. The old saying is true—you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Sometimes simply asking nicely for the solution that you desire will lead to a good outcome, or at least – a solution that you can live with.

Another good tip – see if there is a way to handle a neighbor dispute with compromise. For example, if a property line is being disputed, speak to your neighbor about hiring a surveyor, and split the cost of the survey. This will determine the exact and correct property line. Agree that you will honor the surveyor’s findings.  Or possibly you can find a way to share the property. A term called ‘right-of-way’ applies to using some portion of a property for a certain purpose. If a neighbor has been crossing the corner of your property for many years to access an alley, for example, or to enter their back yard, they do have rights to cross that portion of your property, known as an ‘easement’.

When a neighbor’s barking dog or other noises (from equipment they use, for example) bothers you, you can certainly consider erecting a barrier—a solid and sturdy fence between your properties to help alleviate the problem. You could ask your neighbor to share the cost of the new fence but be prepared for them to be unwilling to contribute.  You may have to do it for yourself, at your own cost.  Possibly just sharing your schedule so that they know when to keep the dog in or when not to use that noisy equipment would improve the situation.

Mediation is another option to consider. Solicit the help of a neutral neighbor or a board member of your homeowner’s association and attempt to have a meeting about the issue. The mediator can suggest solutions to find one that will be acceptable to both parties.

If all else fails, you may need the help of a good attorney. Also note that if the issue with your neighbor involves a health hazard such as leaking chemicals or sewage, or fumes or residue drifting onto your property—then you can call the health department or your local police to address the concern because it could be a health hazard.  If someone in your family has gotten sick or injured due to the health hazard, you have a potential personal injury case.  Always be sure to contact a reputable, experienced injury law firm.

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