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New Jersey Dog Bite Laws

January 29, 2016 | Posted In Dog Bites

Most dogs are friendly and simply want to smell, lick and/or greet every person that passes by. But not all dogs are that eager to meet you, and a wagging tail doesn’t necessarily indicate that the puppy wants to play.

Some dogs are not people-friendly and may lash out at anyone who is not their owner, even if you don’t make any moves to approach them or play. Dogs like this may be just as likely to bite you as they are to growl menacingly, and it’s best to keep your distance. Why? Because dog bites can cause serious injuries and require long-term medical attention and care.

In New Jersey, as in many states across the country, a dog owner is legally responsible for all the actions of his or her pet, including any damages inflicted by a dog bite. New Jersey Statute 4:19-16 assigns this liability regardless of whether the dog has ever shown aggression or viciousness in the past, or has never bitten a person before.

Any time a dog is in a public place, including the owner’s home, the owner is responsible for the dog’s actions. If a dog bites you in a park, while you’re out walking in your neighborhood, or anywhere else, you can sue the owner for damages.

Dog Bite Claims Without Liability

There are two general types of dog bite claims that do not result in restitution for the victim and remove the owner from the responsibility of paying for damages:

  • Trespass – If you are on a dog owner’s property without permission and you are bitten by the dog, your personal injury claim may run into trouble. According to the state’s statute, a defense based on trespass is permitted if the trespasser has criminal intent.
  • Accidents caused by more than one person – In this case, the victim may have contributed to the dog’s aggressive behavior, either through wrongful actions or negligent behaviors. For example, a dog sitter who forgets to feed the dog while the owners are away may be greeted with a bite from the hungry pet. Here the dog owner has “almost strict” liability and the plaintiff may not be able to recover damages if his or her actions caused the incident.

Take Action

A dog might be man’s best friend, but there’s nothing friendly about a dog bite! Depending on the severity of the bite and where you are bitten, you may need extensive medical care, including surgery and rehabilitation. These procedures are not cheap, and your recovery may take you away from your job and your personal responsibilities.

Such setbacks can be included in a personal injury claim for a dog bite and restitution for your injury could help ease the pain and financial burdens of a serious bite. Additionally, owners of dangerous or hostile dogs should be made aware of the pet’s actions and should take precautions. 

For more information on filing a personal injury claim for a dog bite, contact a New Jersey dog bite lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, today.

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