Dog Bite Law in New Jersey
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over 4 million dog bites occur in the Unites States annually. Unfortunately, a majority of bite victims are children, who often suffer painful injuries to the face. New Jersey is one of a handful of states that take dog attacks very seriously. New Jersey does not allow dogs “one free bite” and thus holds dog owners strictly liable for the bites of their animal, unless the animal was provoked.
Because dogs do not get “one free bite” in New Jersey, a dog’s prior behavior is irrelevant in determining whether the dog’s owner was negligent in handling the animal and protecting the public from it. With few exceptions, if a dog bites a person in New Jersey, the dog’s owner can be held liable for damages resulting from the bite.
Additionally, New Jersey’s “vicious dog” law provides that a court shall determine whether a dog that has attacked a person is vicious. If a dog is deemed to be vicious, it will be euthanized.
A few situations exist where the dog owner will not usually be obligated to pay damages to the bite victim. These situations include when:
There is a possibility that a victim not covered under the New Jersey strict liability statute can recover under a claim for negligence.
Special treatment is given to situations in which the victim bears some blame for the bite. In these cases, the victim can only recover damages from the owner if his fault was less than the fault of the owner. Damages will then be assigned based on the percentage of fault belonging to both the victim and the dog owner. This type of situation will be evaluated upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding the bite.
Parents of children can be held liable for their children’s negligent behavior that contributed to the bite in some circumstances. Usually parents will only be held liable for the behavior of small children if the parents’ failure to supervise their child was extreme or if they instructed the child to perform the behavior that lead to the bite. It is generally very difficult to hold a child under the age of seven liable for his own negligence, though older children may be held liable for their behavior.
New Jersey has some of the most stringent dog bite laws in the nation. However, victims must protect their rights in order to recover damages under those laws. If evidence is not properly documented or if a complaint against the dog’s owner is not filed in a timely manner, victims can lose their ability to obtain a judgment in their favor. Victims should consider the need to do the following in order to protect their rights following a dog bite:
It can be challenging to advocate on your own behalf when recovering from a bite injury. If you or someone you care about has been bitten by a dog, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney. The dog bite lawyers at Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC can help you explore your legal options. 908-322-7000.