Am I Liable if my Dog Bites Somebody?

Yes. In New Jersey, a dog’s owner is legally liable for all damage the dog inflicts upon a victim, even if the dog has never bitten anybody or displayed aggressive tendencies toward humans. This is written into New Jersey’s dog bite statute, N.J.S.A. 4:19-16.

There are certain circumstances under which you might not be held liable, though. For a dog bite victim to successfully recover money through a personal injury claim, he or she must be able to prove the following:

  • He or she was bitten by the dog he or she claims to have been bitten by.

  • The bite occurred while the victim was in a public place or lawfully on the dog’s owner’s property.

Liability for dog bites, like other personal injuries, is determined by identifying the negligent party. When a dog bites a lawful visitor to its owners property or a victim while in public, the dog’s owner is the negligent party because he or she is expected to restrain the dog or keep an aggressive dog away from potential victims. In some cases, the victim may be held negligent for his or her injury. Children younger than seven years old can not be found negligent in dog bite cases.

Situations Where a Dog’s Owner May Not be Held Liable

If the victim was trespassing on the dog’s owner’s property when he or she was bitten, the owner may not be held liable for the victim’s damages. In some cases, a dog’s owner might also be relieved of his or her liability for damages caused by a bite if he or she can prove that the victim provoked the bite. A victim may provoke a dog bite by teasing, attacking, or otherwise threatening a dog into biting out of self-defense.

When a dog is employed as part of a police force, situations occur where biting is part of the dog’s duty. When a victim is injured by a police dog, he or she must prove the following to receive compensation from a civil suit against the police force that employed the dog:

  • The dog or the officer handling the dog violated the victim’s civil rights.

  • The bite occurred as a result of the dog’s handler employing excessive force against the victim.

  • The dog or its handler acted in excess of normal law enforcement procedures.

Filing a claim against a police force for a bite you suffered from one of its dogs is considerably different from filing a personal injury claim against a civilian owner. If you have been a victim of a police dog bite, talk to your attorney about how you may file a civil claim and seek compensation for your damages. When a police dog is off duty, the process for filing a claim for its bite is the same as filing a claim for any other dog bite.

Contact The Law Office of Eric B. Hannum Esq., LLC. at 732-370-9596 to discuss the specific details of your dog bite case, whether you are an owner or a victim. It is important to fully understand your rights and options before going to court or working out a settlement. Let us provide expert legal advice and representation to make this process a little bit easier. Our firm proudly serves Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer, and Burlington counties.

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