Every dog has the propensity to bite. Yes, even yours! By exiting the door of your apartment, you’ve accepted the risk that you or your dog could get bitten by someone else’s dog. Do you understand NY Dog Bite Law?
As inhabitants of congested NYC, we have a great responsibility to properly socialize and train our dogs to reduce the risk of bites. It’s also our responsibility to know our rights and our responsibilities. Even when we do our very best to be responsible dog owners, bites happen. After a bite incident, I always get a panicked email asking not only about behavior modification but about legal consequences.
To help you be the most prepared NYC citizen you can be, I’ve spoken to personal injury lawyer Tom Moverman to ask him what you need to know to protect yourself and your dog. His answers might not be what you’re expecting.
LL: A bite has just happened. What should the owner of the biting dog do immediately?
TM: The owner of the dog, as well as the victim, should judge the the medical complications of the dog bite. As stressful as that situation maybe, it is important to remain calm. Thereafter, both parties need to exchange names, insurance information, as well as the dog’s vaccination history. If there are witnesses nearby, it’s important to get witness testimonies, as well as their contact information.
LL: What should the victim do immediately?
TM: A victim must seek medical help as soon as possible and thereafter the victim needs to document their wounds, if possible, include pictures of the wounds and pictures of the dog that bit them. If pictures of the animal or even wounds, are not possible in that time, provide a description of the dog including the dog’s breed, color, size, and any other identifying features.
Furthermore, a victim needs to report their dog bite attack, depending on which part of New York the victim resides, there will be different places to report these injuries to e.g. the local SPCA or local police department. Contact a New York dog bite attorney, even if your dog bite incident results in a pending lawsuit or an insurance claim, it is recommended that you contact an attorney.
LL: What protections exist under the law to protect dogs that have bitten a person after the dog was provoked?
TM: Under New York law if a dog attacked out of provocation, New York’s dog bite law allows for several defenses that the dog owner can use in a civil liability claim. Some of those defenses include:
- The dog attacked while trying to protect its home against a trespasser(s) or someone who was not on legally allowed on the property and or was attempting a criminal activity on the property.
- The dog was trying to protect its owner or even its own puppies when the attack took place.
- The dog was reacting to pain or suffering it experienced when it bit someone.
- The dog was provoked when it was being tormented, abused or assaulted by the offending injured party.
LL: Is there ever a “no fault” bite case as there are for car accidents?
TM: New York is a “mixed-state” and there is no one specific statute that governs personal injury liability for dog bites. Being a mixed-state means that New York has a dog bite statute that mixes the one-bite rule with a limited degree of strict liability. If the person injured can show that the owner “should have known [sic]” their dog was dangerous, then the owner will be held liable for injuries caused by the dog. But there isn’t a no fault law per se.
LL: If it’s shown that the dog has a medical condition that caused a bite to happen and the medical condition is treated (example: seizures), would that change the outcome for the dog?
TM: With New York being a “mixed-state” means that it has a dog bite statute that mixes the one-bite rule with a limited degree of strict liability, this might be difficult to change the outcome especially if the owner knew that the dog had a condition that might make it dangerous to other people.
LL: When should the owner of an aggressive dog call a lawyer? What type of lawyer should they look for?
TM: As a dog owner, if your dog bites someone you could be faced with a personal injury lawsuit or claim brought forward by the injured person and you could be charged with a misdemeanor, which is legally known as ‘harboring a dangerous dog’ among other charges. The best type of lawyer to help you in this case is an attorney who deals with animal law cases.
LL: When should the victim of a dog bite call a lawyer? What type of lawyer should they look for?
TM: It’s best for the victim of a dog bite to contact a lawyer as soon possible and before speaking to the liable parties such as the insurance agency representing the dog owner. However, before referring the insurance company to your lawyer, be sure to have the insurance company’s name, contact information, and case claim number.
A victim should by all means try to decline answering additional questions, settlement offers, or meeting dates. Knowing this means that the dog bite victim needs to contact a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible in order to secure the best possible compensation. A personal injury lawyer with experience with the victim’s dog state laws is the starting point for the kind of lawyer to look for.
LL: What is the one bite law?
TM: The one-bite law or rule simply put means that the dog only gets “one free bite” before it gets its owner in legal trouble. However, that one free bite under the one-bite rule also means that the dog owner is held liable for injuries the dog causes IF the owner knew or had some reason to know that the dog is capable of causing that kind of injury. New York is a mixed state and under New York law, liability for dog owners for injuries is mixed with the one-bite rule with a limited degree of strict liability as previously mentioned. This also makes it difficult to prove a case which requires the victim to hire an experienced attorney.
LL: What is the legal definition of a “dangerous dog”?
TM: The legal definition of a dangerous dog can be classified as a dog that is “dangerous” or “vicious” because of it’s breed, actions, or the actions of its owner, either before or after an official hearing, according to the law of the jurisdiction where the dog resides.
LL: What legally constitutes a bite? Does severity matter, and if so, by how much?
TM: Legally a dog can be seen as harmful if it bites, jumps, slams against, swipes its paws or is over-friendly and jumps up on someone. Severity caused by these actions will matter as additional compensation is dictated by the severity of the victim’s injuries and other details from the incident in question. Severe injuries are physical injuries that result in fractures, amputations, lacerations, puncture wounds, disfigurement as well as bruises, flesh wounds and other minor injuries. There are also infections, illnesses and other long-term medical treatments to consider when dog bites or attacks happen.
LL: What do dog training and dog behavior consultant professionals need to know?
TM: For dog training and dog behavior professionals, it’s important to have a contract put together that protects you from liability should a dog bite occur with an animal in your care.
LL: What do you wish all NYC dog owners would know about existing dog bite laws?
TM: It is important for all NYC dog owners to know that there is no “one-free bite” in New York and to understand the mixed state laws of New York dog bite liability.
Author Bio: Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Queens Law Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989; The firm’s focus is in personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents, products liability, and medical malpractice.