Cats are one of the most popular pets in the world, and many people specifically choose them over dogs and other large animals due to a perceived lower risk of injury to others. It's true that there are less cat attacks reported per year than dog bites and injuries, but that doesn't mean that the risk is completely absent either. Any injuries or damages caused by your pet, regardless of species, size, or breed, are your responsibility as the pet owner.
Any injury that someone can document and verify was caused by your cat can trigger a personal injury claim. This can include bites, scratches, and even trips and falls triggered by a pet that acts as a floor hazard. Since the cat belongs to you, you have legal liability for its actions, even when they're not intentional on the animal's part. A cat that causes an injury by sleeping in a hallway and causing a visitor to trip still falls under your liability as the owner of both the pet and the home. However, a guest who is injured because they antagonize, injure, or provoke your cat may have their claim denied in court, especially if you document their behavior towards the animal.
Cat bites and scratches are particularly prone to infection, even with proper cleaning and antibacterial treatment, because cats carry a lot of hostile bacteria in their claws and mouths. Since cat bites are often accompanied by infection, costs can rise dramatically in a personal injury claim with little initial physical damage. A dog bite may be more serious from the beginning, but cat-related injuries worsen over time and may lead to lost work days and other costly claims. Previous cat bite cases have been settled for upwards of $250,000 for a simple finger injury that resulted in multiple surgeries due to infection complications.
State laws regarding animal bites vary froma strict negligence policy, in which the homeowner must somehow be negligent in preventing the injury, to a one-bite rule in which the animal is allowed one "free" bite. In these states, someone cannot make a personal injury claim until the animal has wounded someone for a second time. It doesn't have to be the same person, so you should take any aggressive behavior seriously and take steps to separate your pets from anyone they don't like. Preventing a first bite or scratch wound report from being filed on your cat prevents the establishment of a behavioral history that can easily be used against you in court.
Cats are usually easier to separate and isolate than dogs to prevent accidental injuries. A cat can generally handle being shut away in a spare room or bedroom for a few hours while a repair technician or friend visits, while dogs may cause serious damage to your furnishings in the same span of time. There's also no need for a cat to go outdoors after it's been shown to be aggressive since it should be able to be litter box trained. Outdoor cats that are aggressive to other people or pets are a serious legal liability, so either retrain the cat's behavior, build them an outdoor enclosure to protect them and others, or have the cat re-homed.
It's a good idea to take out a small personal liability insurance policy for your pet or to extend your homeowner's insurance policy with extra coverage in case there's ever a claim. These insurance products help you settle out of court and will help pay for legal fees related to an animal-caused injury, regardless of whether the pet is a dog or a cat.
To learn more, contact a personal injury attorney at a law firm like Loughlin Fitzgerald P C.