Dog bites can cause painful injuries and lead to serious diseases.
Under New Jersey law, pet owners can be held responsible for compensating victims if their dog bites someone.
But since some dog bites are completely unexpected, when can we say that a pet owner is liable? Will an injured person still get compensated if the pet owner reasonably restrained the dog?
A New Jersey dog bite lawyer can help you understand your rights under the law.
What is the Strict Liability Law for Dog Bites in NJ?
New Jersey has a “strict liability” dog bite law. Let’s look at what this law means, versus the “one bite rule.”
In New Jersey, if you were bitten by a dog and are seeking compensation, you don’t need to prove that the dog owner was careless. You only have to establish that the bite came from their dog.
New Jersey Statutes section 4:19-16 makes it clear that dog owners are liable if their dog bites, whether or not the pet showed prior signs of viciousness.
In a few other states, pet owners get a free pass under the “one-bite rule.” If their dog bit someone for the first time, the owner could say that this dog had no prior vicious behavior. Thus, the owner could not have anticipated that their dog would bite. This would protect them from liability.
But New Jersey law on dog bites is “strict liability,” which means pet owners don’t get to excuse themselves the first time their pet bites. They would still be considered responsible for the pet’s behavior.
This further means that it doesn’t matter what safety precautions the owner sets up around their dog — they’d still be accountable for any dog bite. It doesn’t matter, for example, if the owner leashed the dog or posted warning signs for guests; if the dog bites someone, the owner would still be liable.
In states with “one free bite,” the injured person would have to prove that the pet owner was negligent — for example, by failing to warn guests or not adequately restraining the dog.
There are defenses to the strict liability law in NJ. For example, if the defendants prove that the dog attack was provoked, meaning someone was tormenting the dog which caused it to bite then that is a valid defense. Most of the case law involves facts where the dog bite victim was teasing or bothering the dog which resulted in the bite. This actually makes a lot of sense. Also, trespass can be another valid defense.
Can I Sue the Owner of the Dog that Bit Me?
Yes, you may file a claim in civil court seeking damages for your dog bite injury.
The main requisites under NJ law is that the dog bite occurred while you were in a public place OR while you were a lawful presence on the dog owner’s property.
The statute covers only dog bite injuries. If you were injured from a different form of animal attack — for example, if the pet knocked you to the ground — you may have to pursue a different legal recourse. You could potentially file a premises liability claim, where you would have to prove that the pet owner was negligent in keeping guests safe within their property.
It’s always best to discuss your options with a personal injury attorney. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer in NJ
New Jersey residents trust the Grossman Law Firm to handle serious dog bite injuries (to humans) and other cases of pet attack. Lead attorney Scott D. Grossman is experienced in determining the liability of pet owners, assessing the full value of your claim, and advocating for the compensation you deserve.
Call (732) 625-9494 or send us a message for a free consultation.
About Grossman Law
For over 20 years, Personal Injury Attorney Scott Grossman has been fighting for the rights of the injured throughout New Jersey. He has helped thousands obtain their fair and just monetary compensation to pay for medical treatment, pain and suffering, and more. Mr. Grossman and his legal team truly care about their clients and provide each with devoted and individual personal attention. Whether you have been the victim of an NJ motor vehicle accident, trucking accident, dog bite, brain injury, construction accident, pharmacy error, wrongful death, workplace injury or any other type of injury, we are here to help you recover the fair and just compensation you truly deserve.