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It is expected, and rightly so, that if your dog attacks or bites someone, you, as the owner, will be held liable. However, there may also be incidents where a third party may be held liable. For example, individuals who are not the owners but have control and are responsible for the dogs during the attacks or landlords who are aware that there are dangerous dogs kept on their property. Consequently, it is wise to consult an attorney who specializes in dog bite cases like David J. Cowhey, “The New Jersey Dog Bite Lawyer”, to help you determine who is or are liable for your dog bite injuries.
Normally the individual liable for a dog bite is the owner or caretaker of the animal. New Jersey applies a “strict liability” statute (NJSA 4:19-16) which means that the owner is liable for injuries caused by a dog bite. It does not matter if the dog owner used reasonable care to restrain the dog or to protect or warn others, he or she is still liable for any injuries caused by their dog. In other words, when a person is bitten by a dog in New Jersey, the dog bite victim does not need to prove malice or negligence. The dog owner is assumed liable for the attack and the resulting injuries. The owner will not be able to defend themselves by claiming that they did not behave negligently.
If a dog bite victim was not trespassing with criminal intent (e.g. delivering a package), provoking or abusing the dog or breaking the law at the time of the attack, then the dog owner has legal and financial liability for the dog’s behavior.
The statute NJSA 4:19-16 covers injuries caused by dog bites. If you have been injured by a dog in any other way, you have to claim that the owner was negligent. For example, if you are injured when a dog jumps on you and knocks you down causing you to break an arm or a leg, you need to prove that the dog owner failed to restrain or control the dog.
If the owner does not have the financial resources to pay for damages caused by his or her dog, it is possible to file a premises liability claim against a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy after a dog bite attack. “Canine-inflicted injuries,” as referred to by insurance companies, that take place on the dog owner’s property may be covered by the homeowners’ insurance policy. Please note that some homeowner’s policies do not cover dog-related incidents and if they do, they may not cover particular dog breeds such as pit bulls due to their aggressive nature. Additionally, a dog attack may also be covered by the dog owner’s renter’s insurance, motorhome owner’s insurance, condominium owner’s insurance, landlord’s insurance, and in some cases by vehicle insurance if the incident occurred inside the dog owner’s car. It is also important to keep in mind that in the state of New Jersey there is a two-year statute of limitations but an insurance policy may have a different time restriction regarding when a claim can be made.
Often courts will not consider someone who is temporarily taking care of a dog liable since they are not expected to have full control over it based on the “strict liability” statute (NJSA 4:19-16). However, under common law negligence someone who is not the owner of the dog but a “harborer” or “keeper” may be held liable for a dog bite if they are aware of the dog’s nature.
If you’re a New Jersey resident and you want to speak to our NJ dog attack attorney about your case, please call David Cowhey 24/7 at 609-513-0627 or contact us online for a free consultation. We have offices located throughout the state of New Jersey to serve you.