Angry dog aggressively barking and defending his territory

What is Dog Bite Liability?

NTZ Editor

Dog bite liability occurs when a dog attacks and injures an individual and the owner of the dog is found responsible. The dog owner, according to the majority of state laws, is strictly liable for damages for injuries to persons or property caused by the animal and which the owner could have prevented.

About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with most of the victims young children.

Dog Bite Laws Vary from State to State

In 29 states, dog owners are liable for injuries caused by their pets, with very few exceptions. Some states even have a dog bite statute in place, in which the “one bite rule” is invoked to protect repeated cases of injury.

In general, laws are in place to protect the rights of the injured person. When a dog viciously attacks a person, unprovoked, and they are injured, the liability for any medical expenses or other expenses (such as property damage if that occurs as well) pertaining to the attack falls mainly on the dog’s owner.

The dog owner may wind up paying out-of-pocket if uninsured or underinsured. Insurance coverage is available with some insurance companies only insuring certain domestic animals while others require many dog owners to sign liability waivers specific for dog bites. Some insurers even go as far as to charge more to owners of what are considered “dangerous” breeds, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, while some companies decline to offer insurance to owners of what they consider a dangerous dog, capable of such viciousness.

Instances Where the Owner May Be Deemed Not at Fault

The owner may have recourse if the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the attack, such as being involved in a provoking act that triggered the dog. The person bitten may be deemed at fault if they were trespassing on private property when the injury occurred, or there is reasonable suspicion that they were attributing to their dog bite injuries and any damages suffered during the biting incident.

The Dog Should Be Kept Necessarily Secure

The owner, however, could be deemed responsible if they did not maintain reasonable control of their dog and failed to keep the animal reasonably secure, or the incident occurred in a public place or lawfully, the victim was not trespassing on the property of the owner when the unprovoked injuries occurred.

What to Expect If You’re Bitten By Someone’s Dog

In New York, for example, the courts have imposed strict liability on the animal’s owner for any injuries inflicted by his or her dog provided that the victim can establish that the dog acted in a vicious manner and the owner knew, or should have known, that their pet was prone to have vicious propensities or displayed former viciousness. 

Seek Treatment, Whether or Not You Think It’s Necessary

If you happen to fall victim to a dog bite, you should provide first aid treatment for the bite as soon as possible. It’s also prudent to see a physician as soon as possible, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the dog that bit you, or if the bite causes a deep wound or you’re unable to stop any bleeding that occurs.

You should also look for any obvious signs of infection (redness, swelling, or pus in the area of the wound). Dog bites can cause infections that generally need medical treatment, or antibiotics.

Take Immediate Action if Injured

If you decide to care for a dog bite injury at home, perform the following:

  • Place a clean towel over the injury in order to stop any bleeding
  • Attempt to keep the area that was injured elevated
  • Carefully wash the bite area with soap and water
  • Apply a sterile bandage to the wound after cleaning, and
  • Apply antibiotic ointment to the injury (to prevent infection)

Most importantly, get any information you can about the residence where the dog lives, the owner’s name and any other pertinent information you can obtain (contact number) including if the dog was given required shots. If you have serious injuries, contact an attorney and provide a detailed account of the incident.

Bites Can Lead to Serious Injuries

Animal bites and scratches, even those that appear to be minor ones, can often lead to complications if not properly treated. Whether or not you know the animal responsible for the injury, scratches and bites that occur can lead to infection or, in some cases, carry diseases, such as rabies.

Kids are given tetanus shots to aid in the prevention of a tetanus infection, provided the shots given are up to date. Adults can suffer the same results if bitten as well, so it’s important to see a doctor whenever someone is bitten by a dog, regardless of the circumstances.

Medical Expenses Can Be Quite High

If you, or someone you know, has fallen victim to an unprovoked attack by a dog, you should receive the financial compensation that you or they deserve for any related injuries. This should include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Medical expenses related to injuries
  • Any physical or emotional pain and suffering
  • Future medical costs (physical therapy or long-term care)
  • Temporary or permanent disabilities
  • Disfigurement requiring surgery
  • Punitive damages
  • Lost wages and/or loss of potential earnings

What’s Your Legal Course of Action the Event of a Dog Bite?

Victims of dog bites are often eligible for financial compensation, and are best aided in receiving proper compensation when they enlist the services of a professional personal injury lawyer.

An experienced lawyer, and preferably one with previous cases regarding dog liability, can help you to navigate your way through a dog bite lawsuit. A lawsuit of this nature is typically filed against the dog owner or its handler, which may include property owners and landlords (if the victim is a tenant) as well.

If you experienced an injury sustained from a dog in the NY area, you have specific legal rights and should contact the law firm of Nicholas E. Tzaneteas, a premier personal injury attorney We are experienced in Brooklyn and New York dog bite cases, and maintain a confidential relationship with our clients. Our personal injury attorneys will successfully navigate the complex issues often involved in these particular types of cases, and help you secure the financial compensation you deserve.

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