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“One-Bite” vs. Strict Liability Laws for Dog Bites

March 18, 2016 | Posted In Dog Bites

Dog owners go to extensive lengths to protect their animals by keeping them safe from passing cars on the road, leashing them to ensure that they won’t run away, getting the appropriate shots and medical treatments to keep them healthy and alive for years to come. But one important part of protecting your animal — and yourself — is understanding your responsibility as a dog owner when it comes to the safety of others around your dog.

Dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that their pets are not the cause of harm to you, your children or anyone else. An average person can encounter several dogs throughout the day in the park, on the sidewalks and even in stores. If you are bitten by a dog, the owner can be held responsible, but the extent of that responsibility varies from state to state.

“One-Bite” Law

Before the 1900s, a dog owner was only held responsible for an injury inflicted by his dog if he had reason to believe his dog was dangerous or had a tendency to bite. This law, known as the “one-bite” rule, didn’t necessarily give a dog a free pass for the first bite, but instead tried to cover scenarios where a dog bit another person out of fear or provocation, especially if that dog was typically mild-mannered and non-aggressive. In those cases, the owner could avoid legal trouble under the one-bite rule.

Today, the one-bite law has been established in several states. Owners who know their dogs are dangerous and will bite others, or know that a particular breed has the tendency to bite, could still be held liable for the first bite, depending on the circumstances. For example, if an owner fails to warn a guest that his dog doesn’t like to be touched and the guest is bitten when he pets the dog, that owner could be held responsible.

Strict Liability Law

States that don’t operate under the “one-bite” law use a strict liability statute instead. “Strict liability” means that a dog owner is responsible for a bite from his animal, regardless of whether the owner could have predicted the bite or prevented it in any way. In a strict liability state, a dog owner is liable if his dog bites someone else and the victim was allowed to be wherever he was when the bite occurred and did not provoke the dog in such a way to cause it to attack.

New Jersey is a strict liability state, according to N.J. Stat. Ann. 4:19-16. Dog owners in our state must be aware of their dog’s actions because any bite inflicted by a pet is the responsibility of the owner. He may have to pay you damages, cover medical costs and make restitution for time off work and other complications as a result of that bite.

For more information regarding dog bite statutes and New Jersey liability laws, contact a New Jersey dog bite lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA. We represent anyone who has been bitten and sustained injuries from a friendly or vicious dog.

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