Dog Bite Injuries

February 15, 2013
 

Animal bites are far more common that most consider at first blush. That is particularly true in large cities, because more people (and their pets) are often crowded into small spaces. There are many opportunities for interaction between the animals and strangers, and bites occasionally occur at those times. It is important for local residents to understand their rights as it relates to these accidents. More specifically, if you live in New York and were bitten by another's dog, you may be able to recover for your loses--medical expenses, lost wages, and more.

How Does the Law Apply in these Situations?
There is a lot of misunderstandings about these cases, and it is easy to get confused. As an initial matter, it is important to understand that liability rules vary depending on the state. Some states apply "strict liability" which mean that, in virtually all cases, an owner is responsible for the consequences of their animal's bites. Other's apply a "first bite free" approach where there may not be liability IF the dog was not known to be dangerous (i.e. had not bitten anyone in the past).

How does New York law work?

Per state statute, we are known as a "mixed" state in this regard, meaning there are some aspects of both strict liability and "one bite free" included. More specifically, owners are strictly liable for medical bills and veterinary costs. In other words, in virtually all circumstances the owner will have to pay those costs--even if it was the first time that their animal bite anyone or showed aggression. However, for all other forms of damages--perhaps things like lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.--the plaintiff must show that the dog was known to be dangerous. That usually requires showing that the animal had bitten someone before or something similar.

Does the Dog Owners Have Any Defenses?
To best understand one's options after a bite it is helpful to have a genera idea of possible defense that might be asserted by a dog owner. Perhaps most notably, if the owners warn of the animal's propensity and took steps to keep the animal away form people, then that might be an appropriate defense. That would be even more likely to shield liability if the plaintiff takes some obvious steps which disregard those warnings (like jumping over a private fence). Similarly, if the person who is bitten is shown to have provoked the animal, then that may supersede other rules and preclude liability. Making threatening movements or egging an animal on inappropriately may limit recovery.

It is important to consider that all of these defenses and possible exceptions to general rules will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Specific characteristics about the dog, owner, environment, injured party, and other situational details will affect the possible outcome. For example, if the person bitten is a six year old child, then the rules might be applied differently. In other words, a six year old who is bitten after reaching a hand into a fence might not be held to have assumed the risk like a thirty five year old adult might.

NYC Dog Bite Lawyer
There are many other possible complications in these cases, and so it is critical to have the aid of an experienced NYC bite lawyer to explain how things might apply in your case. While dog bites may seem like a trivial event or small inconvenience, our legal team understands that these events often have serious costs for those affected. That is why we work hard to ensure that the full value of your losses is taken into consideration if compensation is appropriate.