While many families have dogs that are beloved family pets, animal behavior can be unpredictable. Approximately 4.5 million people experience dog bites each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many people dismiss the risk of suffering severe injury from a dog bite, but dog attacks force 28,000 people per year to undergo reconstructive surgery. Injuries inflicted by dogs account for a third of the dollars paid out by homeowner’s insurance carriers, which amounts to $570 million. Although some might believe that dog bites are minor injuries, the average amount paid by a homeowner’s insurance company for dog bite claims amounts to over $37,000 according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). In this blog, our experienced New York City dog bite lawyers discuss the legal standard for prevailing in a dog bite claim.
New York dog bite laws are more complicated than many states because they represent a hybrid approach of two different groups of jurisdictions. While many states impose strict liability on an owner for dog bites, other jurisdictions follow the so-called “one bite” rule, which imposes liability if the owner knows or has reason to know of the dog’s prior aggressive tendencies. The “mixed” approach under New York law imposes strict liability for certain damages on the owner or keeper of a dog but only if the canine has been previously adjudicated to be a “dangerous dog.” If the dog has previously been determined to be a dangerous dog, strict liability can be imposed for medical bills as opposed to the full spectrum of damages available in other personal injury lawsuits.
A dog bite victim previously could seek damages based on the negligence of the owner or keeper of a dog, but recent New York case law does not impose liability unless a “scienter” (knowledge) requirement has been satisfied. This knowledge requirement is the foundation of what traditionally has been referred to as the “one-bite rule.” This knowledge requirement means that a dog bite victim cannot prevail without evidence the owner knew the dog had displayed aggressive behavior previously. Violations of state law that lead to injuries by a dog constitute negligent conduct under the doctrine of negligence per se, but county and municipal leash law offenses only provide evidence of potentially negligent conduct.
Because dog bites can result in significant injuries that entail hospitalization, reconstructive surgery, pain and suffering, emotional distress (i.e. PTSD), and other damages, injury victims should speak promptly to an experienced New York City dog bite lawyer. The task of establishing the owner had reason to know of a dog’s dangerous propensities often requires a careful investigation. Our investigation might range from interviewing witnesses like neighbors and postal carriers to examining the premises and searching for records related to prior incidents involving the dog.
If you have been injured by a dog, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the dog owner or keeper. Contact an experienced New York dog attack injury attorney as soon as possible to have your case reviewed. Be aware that there is a statute of limitations for filing a claim, so it is recommended you act quickly. Contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP today for a free consultation at 516-358-6900.