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The experience of being attacked or bitten by a dog can be very frightening, especially for a child. If you or your child has sustained a serous injury from a dog bite, our lawyers will work to obtain the compensation you deserve.
Dog bite victims are often wary of filing a personal injury lawsuit because they are afraid the compensation will come out of the pocket of the dog’s owner, who may be a friend or a relative. However, the homeowner’s insurance policy of the dog owner usually covers liability. Our New Jersey dog bite lawyers are skilled in obtaining maximum recovery for dog bite victims from insurance companies.
Homeowner’s insurance can compensate a dog attack victim for the damages such as:
Our Scotch Plains, New Jersey dog bite lawyers have extensive courtroom and negotiating experience to obtain the maximum compensation for dog bite injury cases. In a recent Union County case, our attorneys achieved a $300,000 dog bite recovery.
In New Jersey, dog bite lawyers do not need to show that a dog had a vicious propensity or prove that a dog was dangerous in the past. The owner of the dog is strictly liable, unless the animal was provoked.
New Jersey is among the majority of American states that makes a dog owner legally liable for all of the damages inflicted upon a dog bite victim, even if the dog had never previously exhibited the propensity to bite humans. This liability results from New Jersey Statutes, section 4:19-16, which reads as follows:
The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
For the purpose of this section, a person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner when he is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner thereof.
To recover under N.J.S.A. 4:19-16, a plaintiff must prove only that the defendant owned the dog, that the dog bit the plaintiff, and that the plaintiff was in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property. The statute does not apply if the victim was trespassing without criminal intent, or the injury was not caused by a bite, or the target defendant was not the dog’s owner. However, a cause of action also can be based upon common law strict liability for scienter, negligence, and negligence per se. De Robertis v. Randazzo, 94 N.J. 144 (1983). For more about those causes of action, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.
There are generally two types of dog bite claims in which the defendant may appear liable without having to pay the victim at all, or without the responsibility of paying all of the victim’s losses. The first involves a victim who was trespassing. The dog bite statute permits a defense based upon trespass, but only if the trespasser had criminal intent. De Robertis, supra.
The second is a claim based upon an accident that was caused by more than one person. For example, the victim’s conduct might have been wrongful and therefore negligent, or the dog might have been in the process of being walked by a professional dog walker who was inattentive and therefore negligent. In such cases, the dog owner’s liability is not truly “strict,” but “almost strict,” in that the plaintiff cannot recover if his responsibility for the accident is greater than the responsibility of whoever else may be held responsible, and furthermore, he can recover from each defendant only the amount that corresponds to that person’s fault. For example, if the victim was not looking where he was going, and the jury believed that the victim was negligent, the jury could attribute 50% of the fault to the victim, in which event the victim would receive 50% of his losses. Another example would involve the dog walker: if the jury believed that the victim was not negligent, the jury might attribute 50% of the loss to the dog walker and 50% to the dog owner. This results from the operation of the Comparative Negligence Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.1.
Not all persons can be held comparatively negligent, however. Bush v. New Jersey and New York Transit Company, 30 N.J. 345 (1959). Under the age of seven, a victim is presumed to have not been negligent. At four years or younger, the presumption is almost irrebuttable. Ibid.
New Jersey has partially eliminated the joint and several rule, meaning that a defendant who is less than 60% responsible for any accident can be required to pay all of the economic expenses but only that portion of the noneconomic losses (such as pain and suffering) which equals his actual percentage of fault. In the example of the dog walker given above, if the dog walker had no insurance but the dog owner had full insurance, the victim who had $5000 in medical bills and $50,000 in pain and suffering could collect from the dog owner the sum of only $30,000 (i.e., $5000 because of the economic loss, for which any losing defendant is 100% responsible, plus only $25,000 for the pain and suffering, because it equals 50% of the total loss for pain and suffering). See the Comparative
The first, and most important, rule for preventing dog attacks is: Never go near a strange dog. Other rules that, if followed, can help prevent being attacked by a dog are: Do not approach dogs that are leashed, chained, fenced, or in a car. Always let a dog smell you and see you before petting them. Never turn and run from a dog, especially if it is threatening you. Dogs naturally chase and catch their “prey”. Do not disturb a dog while they’re sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for their young. Always keep in mind that a dog who doesn’t know you may see you as an intruder or as a threat. If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, take steps to minimize the damages. As soon as possible, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water and then call your regular doctor for additional information on how to treat your wounds. If your wounds are serious enough, go directly to your local emergency room. As soon as your injuries have been attended to, report the attack to your local animal control agency or police department.
Since children are most often the victims of dog attacks, teach your children the essential rules above, especially to avoid all strange dogs. Also, teach your children not to tease, chase or throw things at dogs behind fences or gates. In the event of an attack, teach your children to protect their face and neck and to roll into a ball, be very still and as soon as it is safe, find an adult to help them. If you have been victim of a dog bite or animal attack please contact the office of Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC for a free consultation.
If you have been seriously injured from a dog bite or dog attack, contact a New Jersey dog bite lawyer at our firm today to schedule a free initial consultation. We offer direct access to our attorneys 24 hours a day, just call our office at (908) 322-7000 to reach us. If you cannot come to our office, we will come to you. We can also assist clients who speak Spanish, French, and Polish.
This is a common worry among dog bite accident victims. In reality, however, it is your friend’s insurance company who will pay the compensation award. We can help you explore options for getting fair compensation for your injuries even if the dog owner’s financial resources are limited.
Establishing the dog owner’s liability is only the first step. The owner’s strict liability does not guarantee that you will receive a fair compensation award. Insurance companies will do everything they can to minimize their own liability—and your compensation award. An experienced lawyer will advocate on your behalf to reach a fair amount that fully compensates for your dog bite injuries.
In most cases, you have two years to file a lawsuit based on a dog bite injury. It’s best to hire a lawyer who can start investigating your case soon after the injury occurred to make sure we have the strongest possible evidence to pursue your case.