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What Should I Know About Liability in a Dog Bite Case?

Although it is extremely rewarding, being a dog owner is a tremendous responsibility to take on and does not come without its risks. When someone declares ownership of a dog, they are responsible for their grooming, training, and care. A dog owner also has to prevent their pet from hurting others. However, dog bite cases are not always clear-cut. Determining liability in a dog bite case can be complicated.

In New Jersey, dog bite laws fall into the strict liability category. However, the role of the victim must also be determined. Some states have modified versions of strict liability. This means that many factors can change the definition of strict liability, such as provocation and trespassing, and the owner may not be found liable, or the victim may share some responsibility.

Many states have different definitions of strict liability, as well as different views of ownership. Some states determine ownership to be someone who keeps a dog, while other states define ownership as someone who is harboring a dog. To keep a dog is to care for it. Alternatively, harboring means affording lodging to a dog, such as a stray.

There are also different roles of caretakers that could further complicate the definition of ownership. Temporary caretakers, such as a neighbor or family member, could be held liable for a dog attack, depending on when on how the caretaker agreed to the task. The same could be true for professional caretakers, like dog walkers or groomers.

There is also the question of property owners or landlords who are aware of a dog’s aggression but did not take proper precautions to prevent an attack. That is why many property owners have strict guidelines about how many animals or what type of animal is staying on their property.

Dog Bite Laws Vary by State

Dog bite laws across the United States usually fall under two categories. Most states view dog bites under strict liability; the negligent dog owner is liable for the dog’s actions regardless of the dog’s previous history. Alternatively, there is the old one-bite rule. This law holds an owner responsible for a dog bite if the owner knew or should have known the dog’s likelihood to attack someone. Technically, a dog is allowed one bite under the law. Should the dog bite again, the owner is then held liable, and the dog is labeled aggressive or dangerous.

There is also the possibility of a dog bite falling under a state’s negligence law, and the owner will be held liable if they are found to be reckless in controlling their dog. Often, state negligence laws will combine with its dog bite laws to form a variation of the two.

Many states have a specific vicious dog law, which is reserved for dogs that may cause serious and catastrophic injury or death to a person. In these cases, an owner will face stiffer criminal penalties, and may even face manslaughter charges if the dog killed a person and the owner was reckless in controlling the dog.

What Should I Do After a Dog Attack?

Suffering a dog bite is not a simple matter and requires fast action. The following includes a few steps to follow if one is bitten by a dog:

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if the bite seems like a minor scratch, an infection could rapidly set in and make problems worse.

  • Take pictures and document the event. If possible, it is recommended to get a picture of the dog as well as the injury and the location of where it happened.

  • Gather contact information. Even if the victim knows the owner, it is a good idea to retrieve basic contact information from the owner in case it is needed, or the animal’s history is needed. If the owner carries liability insurance or homeowner’s insurance, which sometimes may cover a dog bite, a victim should have that information as well.

  • Report the dog bite. If the dog is a stray with no tag, it is a good idea to report the dog bite to the local animal control so they may track the dog and retrieve them for quarantine.

One important step to do if one is attacked by a dog is to seek the guidance of a lawyer who focuses on dog bites and related animal attacks. Determining liability and whether or not the owner should face penalties are complicated matters. However, having an experienced lawyer can help ease the stress of the situation so the victim can focus on recovering.

Highland Park Dog Bite Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Help Protect Victims Injured by Negligent Dog Owners

Even the most well-behaved dog can be provoked enough to lash out. It is the owner’s responsibility to make sure their dog is safe around others. However, dog bite laws can be complicated and difficult to understand. The Highland Park dog bite lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr can help you with your case. Call us today at 732-537-8570 or complete our online form for a free consultation and more information. We are conveniently located in Highland Park, New Jersey, and we proudly serve clients throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.

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