Who Is Liable in a Dog Bite Case?

Dogs are capable of causing serious and even life-threatening injuries. If a dog attacks or bites you in New Jersey, it is important to recognize who you can hold liable, or legally and financially responsible, for your medical bills and other damages. Dog bite injury liability laws vary from state to state.

Strict Liability vs. One-Bite Rule

There are two main types of dog bite injury laws. The first is a strict liability rule, where the owner of a dog can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog regardless of whether the owner was aware of the dog’s viciousness. The second is a one-bite rule, also known as scienter. Under this rule, the owner must have known (or reasonably should have known) about the dog’s propensity for viciousness to be held liable for an attack; for instance, the dog must have bitten someone before. 

In New Jersey, Owners Are Liable 

New Jersey is a strict liability dog bite state. This means that in New Jersey, the owner of the dog will be held liable for most dog bite injuries. New Jersey Statutes, Section 4:19-16 states that the owner of any dog that bites a person while the victim is on or in a public place or lawfully on or in a private place (including the property of the dog owner) shall be liable for damages suffered by the victim, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

Under this law, it is not necessary to prove that the owner of the dog knew that the animal might bite or be aggressive. Even if the dog had never bitten someone previously, the owner can still be held liable for damages caused by the dog. It may also be possible to hold the owner liable using the legal doctrine of negligence if he or she failed to use reasonable care in preventing a foreseeable attack. This could be the case if the owner let the dog run at large or failed to keep a known dangerous dog properly contained, for example.

Who Else Could Be Held Liable?

Depending on the circumstances of the dog bite injury, it may be possible to hold someone other than the owner of the dog responsible. If a third party was in charge of watching, walking or handling the dog at the time of the incident – the “controller” of the dog – this person could be held liable. A landlord in New Jersey could also be held liable for a dog attack that occurs on rented property if the landlord should have done more to keep tenants and visitors safe, such as enforcing stricter rules against housing dangerous dog breeds.

Who Pays for a Dog Bite Injury in New Jersey?

If you win a dog bite injury case against a pet owner, he or she may not have to pay for your medical bills out of pocket. In many cases, pet owners have insurance that will cover the costs for them. Since dogs and other pets are viewed as property in the State of New Jersey, a pet owner’s homeowners or renters insurance plan will most likely cover damages caused by a dog. If the incident occurred on commercial property, the owner’s business insurance may pay.

New Jersey Dog Bite Lawyer

Do You Need to Hire an Attorney?

Despite New Jersey’s strict liability dog bite law, it can still be difficult to collect the financial compensation that you deserve for a serious dog bite injury. The pet owner may try to defend against liability by alleging that you provoked the dog or were trespassing at the time of the incident. In other cases, the pet owner’s insurance company may try to wrongfully reject your claim or offer less than your case is worth. You may need assistance from a dog bite injury lawyer to secure the monetary award that you deserve, contact us here.