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Dog Bite Law Questions

Being bitten by a dog may not seem like something you think would happen to you. Maybe it seems like a rare situation. However, it is fairly common. It helps to be aware of the law and what your options are if you are a victim of this type of injury or a dog owner facing challenges with your dog. Below are common questions answered on dog bite law.

Am I entitled to compensation for a dog bite? If the owner is willing to pay for medical expenses, can I sue for other damages?

If you are bitten by a dog owned by another person you would be eligible to receive compensation equivalent to the cost of your medical expenses and pain and suffering. If the dog owner is willing to pay for the medical bills, you do have the option to sue for the emotional trauma and suffering. The court would decide the amount that is payable after hearing the case and passing a judgment.

My dog escaped and bit another dog whose owner is a cop. What are the chances of a lawsuit given that I am in New Jersey?

New Jersey is one of the states that enforce legal liability on the dog owner for all damages inflicted on the dog bite victim even if the dog has previously not exhibited any type of tendency to attack humans.

As per the New Jersey statutes section 4:19-16: “Liability of owner regardless of viciousness of dog - 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.” This statute does not apply if the victim was trespassing even without criminal intent, injury was not caused by a dog bite or the accused is not the owner of the dog.

In this particular case, you will have to pay the medical bills of the dog to the owner. Most likely you will not be liable to any other type of claim as no human being was affected or hurt.

My dog bit the mailman and I have received a demand letter from his attorney asking for over $10,000. I cannot afford this, what are my options?

A demand letter sent by a person’s lawyer is not a legal document that is enforceable on you. It may not even be an accurate assessment of the alleged damages. All aspects of the letter can be contested by you. The first option would be to check the homeowner’s insurance carrier for coverage of such incidents in your policy. If they do cover, then they would likely handle the claim, else you would need to appoint the services of a lawyer should be able to protect your interests.

Is it essential to report a dog bite after it occurs even if it was a family member’s dog and it was a minor injury?

The law does not stipulate any time period as to when a dog bite needs to be reported. It simply states that any person with direct knowledge about it must inform the authorities. However, if the incident has occurred with a known dog, which has been properly vaccinated and the victim has received timely medical assistance after the dog has been quarantined, it may not be necessary to report the incident.

I am from Florida and being sued as my dog bit a boy who approached it in an aggressive manner while it was sitting peacefully by my side. There has been no previous aggression shown by my dog. What can I do?

Florida has what is known as comparative negligence. This means that if the victim was even partly at fault, the amount they can recover is proportionately reduced by the percentage of their fault. Since your dog was on a leash and sitting by your side, and because the boy charged at the dog and his parents did not stop him, you could plead it was at least 50% the boy’s fault. If your insurance company covers dog bites and if the victim is not seriously injured, the insurance company and the victim would settle the matter between themselves.

A dog bite can be both a painful and traumatic experience. It could even leave lifetime scars or a fear that is difficult to overcome. Sometimes, despite obvious behavior exhibited by the dog, the owner does not take any remedial action to avoid untoward situations. Despite being careful you can get bitten by a dog and it can happen so quickly that you have no time to protect yourself. The presence of the dog bite law assures at least the possibility of reimbursement of medical expenses and pain and suffering.
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