New Jersey Dog Bite Laws
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Most dog bite victims hear the same line soon after the bite: the dog has never bitten before. While many dogs are extremely friendly, past behavior is irrelevant in dog bite accident cases. New Jersey dog owners have a legal responsibility to prevent dog bites—period. The “one free bite” rule does not apply in New Jersey, meaning that the owner can be held financially accountable regardless of whether the dog has ever bitten.
At The Epstein Law Firm, P.A., we fight to help dog bite victims get fair compensation for their injuries. Dog bites can cause serious medical complications. Those complications are magnified when the victim is a child. With over 120 years’ experience and a reputation for excellence in the community, we stand ready to put our skills to work for you.
In most areas of law, victims can only recover compensation subject to a negligence standard, so that people can escape responsibility if they acted carefully and reasonably. Dog bite laws are different. In almost every dog bite case, a strict liability rule applies. The simple act of owning a dog means that the dog owner becomes subject to one key responsibility: preventing the dog from biting under any circumstances.
If a dog bit you in New Jersey, you do not have to fight to protect your legal rights alone. When medical bills are piling up, our experienced dog bite injury lawyers are here to fight on your behalf. To schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation, call our office or fill out our online contact form today.
New Jersey Dog Owners’ Legal Responsibilities
The dog owner has a duty to exercise all reasonable care to keep others safe from dog bites and attacks. However, that responsibility only truly becomes relevant in cases involving dog attacks (not bites), which are governed by a negligence theory of law. The bottom line is that dog owners have a duty to keep the dog under control to prevent all dog bites under New Jersey strict liability law.
Those owner responsibilities include:
- Keeping the dog on a leash or in a cage while in public
- Keeping the dog restrained from postal workers and others who lawfully enter the property while at home, whether in a fenced yard, a leash or indoors
- Maintaining control over the dog to prevent dog bites even while the dog is leashed—meaning ensuring that the person controlling the leash has sufficient strength to restrain the dog
Notably, dog owners can be held responsible for dog bites on their own property, so long as the victim was legally present on the property. Dogs can react unpredictably to a situation even when they have previously behaved well. New Jersey imposes such a strict standard to keep everyone safe from the natural dangers that a dog can pose.
If you or a loved one have sustained injuries after a dog bite, our experienced lawyers at The Epstein Law Firm, P.A. are here to help you recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress and more. Call us to schedule your free case review today.
Strict Liability vs Negligence Law in Dog Bite Claims
Most personal injury victims have a relatively high burden to satisfy before they become eligible to recover financial compensation. Accident victims are generally required to prove that the at-fault party was negligent, which requires establishing:
- A duty of care existed (the at-fault party had a duty to exercise caution to keep others safe)
- The at-fault party breached that duty by acting carelessly
- That specific breach caused the injury
- The victim suffered damages as a result of the injury
Dog attack cases that do not involve bites are usually subject to this negligence standard. To recover compensation in a dog bite case governed by strict liability, on the other hand, the victim must only show that:
- The defendant owned the dog
- The dog bit the victim
- The victim was lawfully present on the property, whether it was public property or private property
New Jersey courts have even awarded compensation to a victim where the dog bite did not actually break the skin—but caused injuries, nonetheless. The strict liability standard also applies in dog bite cases regardless of whether the dog has ever bitten anyone in the past. In other words, New Jersey dog bite law does not recognize the “one free bite” rule.
Contact our Leading Dog Bite Injury Lawyers for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation Today
If you or a loved one have been hurt in a dog bite accident, you may already be surprised by the severity of your injuries. In other cases, complications present themselves days or weeks later. Regardless of the circumstances, our experienced dog bite lawyers will aggressively advocate on your behalf for a compensation award that covers both your past and future expenses.
You can schedule your free initial consultation by calling our office or filling out our online contact form today.
Frequently Asked Questions About New Jersey Dog Bite Laws
It depends upon the circumstances. While the dog owner is always responsible for the dog’s actions, other parties may also contribute to the attack. For example, a dog walker hired by the dog’s owner could potentially be held responsible for neglecting his or her duties. A landlord who knew that a dog was vicious, but allowed their tenant to keep the dog on their property, could also potentially be liable. Both of these circumstances would require a showing of negligence under New Jersey dog bite laws.
It’s possible that the owner may still be liable under the strict liability law, as long as the attack in total did involve a dog bite. In these cases, the help of an experienced injury lawyer is particularly important in fighting to protect your rights under New Jersey dog bite laws.
Some challenges that we do face often with a dog bite case is limitations in coverage. When there’s a loose dog running astray, whose dog is it? And sometimes people who own dogs don’t have coverage for that dog. So for instance, if it’s a homeowner and the homeowner has homeowners insurance, that person who is injured by the dog could potentially go through the person’s homeowners insurance. Sometimes, if a person doesn’t have homeowners insurance or renters insurance, we might look to a commercial entity. For instance, if the person who owns a dog is a tenant in a building and does not have renters insurance that might cover the injuries or losses suffered as a result of the dog bite, we might look to that commercial entity or landlord to determine whether or not the landlord had notice of the vicious or propensities of the dog to attack and then potentially go through the landowners’ coverage.