How Does New Jersey Law Handle Dog Bites?
New Jersey is a strict liability state for dog bite victims. They can expect to recover their damages resulting from the injury. Generally, the monies paid to the victim will be by the dog’s owner or the owner’s insurance company. Insurance companies pay out about $550 million nationwide for dog bite claims each year. Successfully getting the victim all of their damages is what New Jersey dog bite injury lawyers do.
Is a Dog Man’s Best Friend?
Household pets are part of everyday life. Historically, dogs were domesticated more than 23,000 years ago. Dogs traveled with humans 15,000 years ago when they came to the Americas. Cats, on the other hand, were domesticated in the Near East only 7,500 years ago; the human-dog attachment is much deeper. There is every reason to say a dog should be a person’s best animal friend.
Yet not every dog is always friendly to its master or to other people in its immediate environment, such as a casual stranger. A dog can be aggressive toward those it does not know. A dog-person dangerous interaction can happen any time in any situation. Newspapers and online forums feature the dangers of a dog bite. Young children are at a higher risk of being a dog bite victim. Best friend or not, the rights of dog bite victims are best protected by a lawyer specializing in this type of personal injury case.
Dog Bite Facts
When the weather heats up in the summer, the chances of a dog bite rise. Dog owners are more likely to be bitten by their dog than are strangers. Young children are more likely to be bitten because they are literally eye-to-eye with the dog. They are also less hesitant to interact with a strange dog than an adult.
Dog bites represent some 26 percent of all animal bites annually. And, of the 4.5 million people who are bitten, only 845,000 need medical attention.
Most people who are bitten know the dog.
Because of mandatory rabies vaccines, there is only a three percent chance the dog is rabid.
About 25 percent of fatal dog attacks were by chained dogs. This would correspond to the fact that security dog types are often chained.
Statistics show that there is a small chance of dying of a dog bite. For the period of 2005 to 2017, a total of 433 people died of dog bites or complications nationwide.
Rules in New Jersey for a Basic Dog Bite Case
As a dog bite strict liability state, the owner of any dog, regardless of temperament or history, has to fully compensate a victim’s injuries from a bite. Dog bite victims need to know the following basic facts:
- The owner is liable without the dog having bitten before or it is known to be vicious.
- The owner is liable if the dog and victim are on public property or the victim is not trespassing. Trespassing is being on private or restricted property without the property owner’s permission. Delivery persons are not trespassers because they have an invitation to come onto private property.
- Notably, in 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled, in State v. Taffet, that owners of known vicious dogs are liable even to trespassers, except if the victim intends to commit a crime. A victim in this situation needs to speak with a qualified lawyer immediately to preserve their legal rights.
- Dog bite injuries include bites and injuries from a mauling, injuries other than the actual bites such as a contusion or bone break.
- Recoverable damages include uninsured medical bills; lost wages; and non-economic, emotional, damages. Non-economic damages include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, fear of dogs, scarring or disfigurement, and a reduced quality of life.
All victims of a dog bite attack have only two years to sue for personal injuries and six years to sue for property damages. Therefore, victims should act immediately.
Exceptions to the Rules
These rules have exceptions that are important to a dog bite victim. Recovery for an injury may hinge on one of these exceptions.
Provocation can be an owner’s defense to a bite by their dog. New Jersey’s dog bite law does not define provocation. Facts matter when it comes to seeing if a provocation defense exists. Flagrant physical abuse, startling, or quick movements can be a provocation. Anything less is a matter of interpretation.
Insurance companies insuring dog owners, including those providing homeowners and renters insurance policies, look for any instance of provocation to avoid paying for the injuries.
With all this said, importantly, in a recent court decision, someone injured by interceding to help the victim from an unleashed dog attack did not provoke the dog.
If a court finds provocation on the part of the victim or their protector, the provocation itself is measured by New Jersey’s comparative negligence rule. If the victim is less than 50 percent responsible for the injuries even with provocation, there will be a recovery.
A dog-sitter, an independent contractor watching the owner’s dog, is generally not liable for damages. This does not excuse the owner of the dog.
If the independent contractor is the bite victim, they cannot assert a claim against the dog’s owner unless that owner purposefully or negligently concealed a known hazard from the independent contractor, such as the dog’s viciousness.
The dog’s owner cannot claim an excuse because the dog did not display a propensity to bite, if the owner could not have prevented the bite, or if the bite was not the owner’s fault in any way.
What One Must Do if Bitten
In any traumatic situation when injury results, there are practical steps and best practices steps the victim has to take. After the confrontation and dog bite injury, the victim should expect to be filled with an adrenaline rush, which is normal. It is best to focus on what should be done.
First, the victim should take the following practical steps:
- Assess the nature of the injuries and what has to be done.
- Depending on the injury, seek immediate medical care.
- Lawyers want their clients to think of themselves and get medical care.
Then, victims should take these best practices steps:
- Get the name of the dog’s owner.
- Ask for the name of the owner’s insurance company. It is important to remember that lawyers deal best with potentially contested insurance claims.
- Get the dog’s name and its license number.
- Get the names of any witnesses.
- Take photos and videos of where the dog bite happened.
- Take photos and videos of the injuries, even the gruesome ones.
- File a dog bite report with the proper authorities.
- Contact a dog bite lawyer right away.
- Use a notebook or a cell phone to keep a journal how the dog bite happened, list injuries, note symptoms and pains, list physical and mental reactions, and anything else the lawyer may want to know later. Victims should keep the journal current each week.
Highland Park Dog Bite Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Fight for Victims of Dog Bites
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, reach out to the Highland Park dog bite lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr. Our legal team will perform a complete investigation of the facts and provide compassion and understanding. We will strive to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Our experience is behind our fight on your behalf. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or 732-537-8570 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in 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.