When Is a Dog Owner Responsible for Dog Bite Injuries?

Blog,Personal Injury • May 18, 2020

The old saying claims that dogs are man’s best friend, but many have justified concerns when they are near dogs they don’t know. Even dogs that are well-treated can be intensely loyal and protective toward others they deem part of their pack. This means they could respond aggressively to strangers. In situations when a dog has been poorly trained or mistreated, aggressive responses in dogs are often caused by fear. This can be triggered by anxiety that their food may be taken away or they will be hurt physically. In some cases, changes in a dog’s environment can result in the animal becoming anxious or over-stimulated, leading to a quick reaction. Regardless of their cause, dog bites and attacks can end in severe injuries and even psychological trauma in victims. If you or a family member has suffered injuries caused by a dog attack, it’s crucial that you understand the laws concerning when a pet owner is responsible for damages resulting from the actions of their animal. 

Dog Bites Can Lead to Serious Injuries

Dogs are descended from wolves, meaning that they are capable of terrifying amounts of damage in the event of an attack. Larger breeds that are used as guard dogs are often associated with bite attacks, including Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepards, and pit bulls. It’s a fact that these animals are capable of inflicting serious injuries. There have been cases where even those on the job have been injured by large dogs that escaped cages located at their place of work. In one particular case, a guard suffered multiple bite injuries across his body after being attacked by a Rottweiler and a pit bull. In that case, the man was able to settle his case for $563,000. This case happened right here in New Jersey, and this is one of the higher settlements relating to a dog bite case in the state. This was possible due to the severity of the victim’s injuries, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that large dogs aren’t the only kind that can exact severe lacerations. Many people will underestimate the ability of small dogs to harm a person, and this often causes their owners to fail proper training and discipline for their pets. All dog owners should know that training isn’t an option, and it’s crucial to be able to control your dog’s behavior in stressful and dangerous situations.

New Jersey’s Strict Liability Standard for Dog Attacks

Dog bite legislation in New Jersey acknowledges that ultimate responsibility born by the owner of the dog is managing and anticipating the behavior of their pets. In many other states, it’s required that a victim establishes that the owner of the dog had prior indication or reason to expect that their dog was inclined to bite before the owner can be held responsible for any injuries caused by the animal. However, the state of New Jersey implements a different standard that is aimed at the compensation of innocent dog bite victims. The state concerning dog bites in New Jersey is a “strict liability” law. This means that the owner of the dog will be held responsible for any bite injuries inflicted by the dog even if there is no reason to suspect that the dog would act aggressively. This is the case even if the owner made reasonable attempts to restrain the animal or tried to warn or protect potential victims. 

Elements of a Dog Bite Case in New Jersey

When Is a Dog Owner Responsible for Dog Bite Injuries?The only elements that a dog bite victim in New Jersey has to establish in order to show that the owner of the dog is liable are that:

(a) The dog bit them, resulting in an injury that caused the damages they are seeking compensation for, and 

(b) That the victim was in a place they were permitted to be when the attack occurred.

This means that the victim was either in a public area or they were lawfully on private property. If the property belongs to another party, the victim has to either have been invited or be carrying out official duties. For example, mail carriers routinely enter private property to carry out postal delivery duties without first obtaining explicit permission from property owners. Their job provides them with that authorization, but trespassing on another’s property does not have that protection or authorization. If a trespasser is bitten by a dog while on the owner’s property, the property owner is not responsible for resulting damages incurred by the trespasser. 

Under New Jersey case law, those who abuse or harass a dog are unable to recover compensation. In the event such a person is bitten by a dog, they are unable to pursue compensation. 

It’s crucial for victims who are pursuing a liability claim against a dog owner to remember that the strict liability standard only applies to bite attacks. If a dog injures you in any other way, such as jumping and knocking you over, scratching you, or tripping you, this strict standard of liability does not apply. You are still able to pursue a negligence claim against the owner, and these claims are often based on a violation of leash laws or failure to control the animal, but the normal defenses in a negligence case are applied. 

Contact us today if you or a loved one has been injured in a serious dog bite attack. 

Dog Bite Injuries in New Jersey 

Each year, around 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs. Statistics show that one out of every 69 people is involved in a dog bite attack. In 2018, there were 36 fatalities related to dog bites in the United States. 

If you or a loved one is injured in a dog attack, the resulting damages can be overwhelming. Many victims are unsure of what to do next to protect their legal rights. An experienced New Jersey dog bite injury attorney can help injured victims and their families recover lost compensation. 

Since 1965, Brady Reilly & Cardoso, LLC has provided reliable, result-driven legal services to New Jersey residents. Personal injury law is broad, involving an array of different accidents, and each comes with its own unique rules and limitations. Contact our offices today at (201) 997- 0030 to discuss your case.