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Dog Bites: Know Your Rights

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Posted on March 14, 2023

10 FAQs answered: Scenarios, rights, legalities, and steps to take you should be aware of when dealing with a dog bite accident.

What should I do if I am bitten by a dog in New Jersey?

A: If you have been bitten by a dog, these are some steps you can take:

  1. Seek medical attention: Even if the bite seems minor, seek medical attention right away. Dog bites can cause serious infections and diseases, so it is important to get checked out by a doctor.
  2. Gather evidence: This can include photos of the location, any injuries you sustained, and the dog itself. Take photos of the wound and any damage to clothing or personal belongings. Try to get the contact information for any witnesses who saw the incident, and even the dog owner themselves if you can.
  3. Report the incident: You should report the dog bite to the local animal control agency or police department to report the incident. They will be able to provide guidance on next steps and may ask you to fill out a report. They can also investigate the incident and help you identify the owner of the dog. Keep records of any medical treatment you receive, including prescriptions and follow-up appointments.
  4. Follow up: Follow any medical advice given to you by your healthcare provider and stay in touch with the animal control agency or police department to track the progress of the investigation.

How does it get determined that a dog is euthanized after a dog bite case in New Jersey?

A: The decision to euthanize after a dog bite incident is usually made by the local animal control agency or court. The decision is based on a number of factors, including the severity of the dog bite, the dog’s history of aggression, and the circumstances of the incident. Some factors that may be considered in this determination are:

  1. Severity of the bite: If the bite was severe and caused significant injury or disfigurement, the dog may be considered a danger to public safety and may be ordered to be put down.
  2. History of aggression: If the dog has a history of aggressive behavior, such as biting or attacking other people or animals, this may be considered.
  3. Circumstances of the incident: The circumstances of the bite incident may also be considered, such as whether the dog was provoked, or the victim was a child.
  4. Owner’s ability to control the dog: If the owner is unable or unwilling to control the dog and prevent future accidents, this may be taken into account.

The decision to euthanize is not made lightly, and there are often efforts made to address the dog’s behavior before resorting to euthanasia. This may include requiring the owner to enroll the dog in a training program or imposing conditions to ensure public safety. However, in some cases, euthanasia may be deemed necessary to protect public safety.

How long do I have to file a dog bite lawsuit in NJ?

A: The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, including dog bites, is two years from the date of the accident. Consult an attorney with your case, as some exceptions could extend or shorten the two-year deadline. It is advisable to take action as soon as possible, gather evidence, seek medical attention, and consult with an attorney. Waiting too long could increase the difficulty of building a strong case.

What damages can I recover in a dog bite case?

A: If you are a victim of a dog bite in NJ, you may be entitled to recover several types of damages. These damages can include:

  1. Medical expenses: You can recover compensation for any medical expenses you incurred as a result of the dog bite, such as hospital bills, doctor’s fees, medication, rehabilitation, therapy costs, surgery, and other expenses. For instance, if you had to undergo surgery or receive a tetanus shot after a dog bite, you can claim these expenses.
  2. Lost wages: If the incident caused you to miss work, you might be able to recover compensation for the wages you would have earned during that time. or affected your ability to work in the future, you can recover compensation for lost wages. For example, if you had to take time off from work to recover from your injuries or attend medical appointments, you can claim lost wages.
  3. Pain and suffering: You may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of the dog bite. These damages can include physical pain, emotional distress, psychological trauma, and the impact the injuries have had on your quality of life. If you experience anxiety, nightmares, or a fear of dogs after the attack, you can seek compensation for those damages.
  4. Scarring and disfigurement: If the dog bite caused permanent scarring or disfigurement, you may be entitled to the compensation for the physical and emotional impact of the injuries. For example, if you are left with a visible scar on your face or body, you can claim damages for scarring and disfigurement.
  5. Property damage: If the dog damaged your property during the attack, such as tearing your clothes or damaging your personal belongings, like eyeglasses, you can claim compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing the property.
  6. Punitive damages: In some infrequent cases, you may be entitled to these damages, which are awarded to punish the dog owner of particularly egregious, reckless, or intentional behavior. This behavior can include knowing the dog’s history of aggression and failing to take reasonable steps to prevent attack. In such cases, punitive damages may be appropriate.

Can I sue for emotional distress after a dog bite incident?

A: If you have suffered emotional distress after a dog bite in New Jersey, you may be able to sue for damages. Emotional distress is a type of non-economic damage that refers to the emotional and psychological harm caused by an accident, such as a dog bite. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Severity of emotional distress: In order to sue for emotional distress, the emotional harm you have suffered must be significant and have a substantial impact on your life. This can include symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues.
  2. Causation: To successfully sue for emotional distress, you must be able to show that the emotional harm was caused by the dog bite accident.
  3. Proof: To prove emotional distress, you will likely need to provide evidence such as medical record, therapy records, or testimony from mental health professionals.
  4. Limits: There are limits to the amount of damages you can recover for emotional distress. In NJ, there is no specific cap on damages for emotional distress, but the amount you recover depends on the specific circumstances of your case.

Who is responsible for a dog bite in New Jersey?

A: In New Jersey, there is a strict liability statute for dog bites, meaning that the owner of a dog is strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dog biting someone, regardless of whether the owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies and even if they took reasonable steps to prevent it. This is in contrast to the “one-bite rule” that is followed in some other states, which allows dog owners to escape liability for a dog bite if they had no reason to know that the dog was dangerous. In other words, the dog gets “one free bite” before the owner can be held liable by any injuries caused by the dog. The NJ statute of liability also applies whether the incident occurred on public or private property.

The victim of a dog bite in NJ can sue the dog owner for damages, and if the dog owner has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, the victim may be able to recover compensation from the insurance company. However, if the victim is trespassing on the owner’s property or otherwise engaging in illegal activities, the owner may not be held liable for the dog bite injuries.

What protections do service animals have in personal injury cases in NJ?

A: In New Jersey, service animals are protected under state and federal law which affords certain protections for their handlers and limits the liability of service animal owners or handlers in the case of dog bites or personal injury.

If a service animal bites or causes injury to someone while performing its duties, the animal’s owner or handler may not be held liable for damages or injuries, provided that the animal was under the control of the owner or handler at the time of the incident.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if the person who was bitten or injured was trespassing on the dog owner’s property, or if they provoked the dog in some way, the dog owner may not be held liable. The protections do not extend to situations where the service animal was not under the control of its handler or where the animal was not acting within the scope of its duties as a service animal.

What if the dog was provoked?

A: If a dog is provoked and bites someone, the owner or handler of the dog may argue that the victim was partially or fully responsible for the injury due to their provocation. The law does not provide an absolute defense to the owner or handler of the dog in such cases, and the victim may still have legal options for seeking compensation for their injuries.

If you were bitten by a dog and the owner or handler claims that you provoked the dog, you may still be able to recover damages if you can demonstrate that the owner or handler was negligent in their handling of the dog or that they failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from biting you. For example, if the owner knew that the dog was aggressive and failed to keep it on a leash or otherwise control it in public, they may still be liable for your injuries.

Can I file a lawsuit against a dog owner if the dog attacked my pet?

A: In New Jersey, you may be able to file a lawsuit against a dog owner if their dog attacked your pet under the following conditions:

  1. The dog owner was negligent: If the dog owner failed to take reasonable care to control their dog or allowed it to run loose, they may be considered negligent.
  2. Your pet was not at fault: If your pet did not provoke the dog or contribute to the attack in any way, they may be considered innocent.
  3. Your pet suffered injuries: If your pet suffered injuries as a result of the attack, you may be able to recover damages for veterinary bills and other expenses.
  4. The dog owner is responsible: If the dog owner was responsible for the attack, either because they knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous, they may be held liable.

Each case is unique and laws can vary, so it is best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to determine if you have a viable case against a dog owner.

Can I recover damages if a stray dog bit me?

A: It may be possible, to recover damages if you were bitten by a stray dog, but it can be more complicated than if the dog had an identifiable owner with insurance. Under NJ law, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dog biting someone, but the law only applies if the dog has an owner who can be identified. If the dog that bit you was a stray, it is hard to hold someone responsible for your injuries.

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