Hello, There are two legal theories on which the walker could rely: 1. Civil Assault. A person who believes that he or she may suffer an intentional imminent harmful or offensive touching by another, has a claim for civil assault. Civil assault is not the same as criminal assault, because no actual physical contact is necessary for a civil assault. All that is necessary is that the plaintiff "apprehend" that an intentional harmful or offensive touching is imminent. In the case of an animal, since the animal is your responsibility, you are similarly responsible for the animal's actions. However, without "intent" to "touch," there is no civil assault. And, based on your facts, there was no intent, so you are not liable for civil assault. 2. Negligence. Negligence requires that the defendant's failure to exercise due care causes a physical injury to another and results in damages. Here, the dog is your responsibility, the dog startled the walker, the walker fell, and presumably was injured as a result. Generally, negligence requires a physical impact, such as a vehicle collision
. However, the walker's falling is a physical impact with the ground, which will satisfy the legal requirements. So, you are liable for negligence, unless you can show that your dog reacted to something that the walker was doing (e.g., walking another dog -- and by doing so, assuming the risk that other dogs might become annoyed and bark). Also, there is the issue of damages. From what you describe, the most that the walker could claim as damages is the cost of a doctor's visit. Obviously, if the visit is to an Emergency Room, then the costs could be pretty high. But, beyond that, I don't see any damages. Even if the walker were to suffer a heart attack, it would be practically impossible to show that your dog's barking caused the heart attach, because startling someone doesn't cause a heart attack. Heart attacks are caused by insufficient oxygen to the heart muscle, usually from a blocked coronary artery -- which develops over many years. In conclusion, I wouldn't worry about it, because there's nothing to do at this point. A personal injury
attorney isn't going to take this case, because there isn't any money in it. So, the walker might sue you in small claims
court, but most people don't sue, and I don't see a small claims court judge awarding damages based on what you've described. I hope I've answered your question. Please let me know if you require further clarification. And, please provide a positive feedback rating for my answer -- otherwise, I receive nothing for my efforts in your behalf.Thanks again for using justanswer.com!