Although animal attacks occur frequently, many dog bites happen accidentally or unintentionally. Sometimes, an otherwise friendly dog can get overenthusiastic and bite a human playmate, or a puppy that isn’t yet fully trained can nip at a petting hand. Unfortunately, even unintentional bites can result in disability, impairment, or other medical issues. You may be hesitant to report a dog bite because you fear serious consequences for the dog; maybe you’ve heard that dogs that bite will be put down or taken away from their owner. In New Jersey, this is not necessarily the case. Knowing the law can help you protect your rights and recover what you deserve if you are injured by a dog.
Why Report a Dog Bite?
A dog's teeth may cause severe lacerations or even puncture vital organs. Treatment can be extensive, frequently including significant procedures like plastic surgery or lengthy courses of physical therapy. Dog bite injuries can be especially harmful to children, often causing permanent scarring, debilitation, and necessitating long-term, ongoing treatment. Dog bites can also transmit diseases like rabies and other infections. In the worst cases, victims can die from injuries or infections caused by the attack. A person who experiences a dog bite may also suffer from short or long-term mental or emotional distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in addition to physical injuries. All of these types of damages are compensable under New Jersey law.
In New Jersey, if a dog bites, attacks, or otherwise causes injury to someone, its owner is legally responsible for those injuries under a "strict liability" standard. This means that if a dog bites or injures you while you’re in a public place or lawfully on someone’s property, its owner is liable for these injuries—even if the dog had never demonstrated any aggressive behavior before and even if the owner used reasonable care to keep the dog under control or protect or warn others of its potential danger.
In some states, an owner isn’t legally liable for a person’s injuries if the dog had no previous history of biting or attacking someone (sometimes called the “one bite free” rule). This is not the case in New Jersey; owners are responsible for injuries caused by dogs regardless of whether it has any history of violence or known aggressive tendencies. If a dog owner knows that an animal had previously bitten or attacked someone, that may influence both what happens to the animal and the amount you may recover for your injuries.
Reporting the circumstances of the injury to the Animal Control division of the Department of Health is the first step towards determining who is responsible for paying the costs of your treatment and compensating you for your injuries.
What Will Happen If I Report a Dog Bite?
Once a victim reports a claim against a dog to New Jersey Animal Control, the division conducts an investigation into the circumstances of the occurrence. The investigators’ goal is to determine what the appropriate, fair action should be. A dog will not be automatically euthanized, even if it is a so-called dangerous breed. However, animal control may order an animal to be put down if the investigation reveals that it has shown a pattern of viciousness or abuse or if the current complaint is particularly violent. Reporting an incident is essential to both preserve public safety and ensure that you are able to legally pursue proper compensation for your injuries.
Any dog can show aggressive behavior and has the potential to cause injury to children and adults alike. If you are a dog owner, make sure you keep your animal under control at all times, both in public and on your own premises, even if it has never shown aggressive behavior. Closely supervise your animal when it interacts with other people, especially children, and always ask permission before allowing your dog to play with an unfamiliar dog. If you have children, teach your children to ask for permission before touching or petting a dog. Show them how to interact gently with dogs, and always supervise them when they are doing so.
Injured by a Dog or Other Animal?
If you’ve been the victim of an animal attack, contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney. The lawyers at the Mark Law Firm can help you establish the value of your dog bite injuries and determine how best to recover your damages. You may be able to recover compensation from the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy even if the dog attack occurred somewhere other than at their home or property.
New Jersey requires that cases to recover personal injury caused by dog bites must be filed within two years of the injury, even if you continue to receive treatment after that period. The attorneys at the Mark Law Firm can help you initiate and investigate your dog bite injury case and determine what course of action is best for you.
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