Liability for Dog Bite Injuries in New York

It seems that every neighborhood has one: The dog that barks and growls at everyone who passes by; the yard that you cross the street to avoid, in case the dog is out; the neighborhood pet that you warn your children to steer clear of. If that pet does bite or attack someone, can the owner be held responsible? New York law allows injured persons to sue a pet owner under certain circumstances.

Strict Liability

When a dog has previously been declared “dangerous,” the owner is automatically responsible for any medical or veterinary expenses if the pet attacks and injures a person or another pet. The injury may come from a bite but may also occur if the dog knocks someone down or if a person is injured while running away from the dog. The dog may not be considered dangerous if it was provoked or injured a person or animal while protecting the life or property of its owner.

Animal control regulations vary by locality. In some counties, certain breeds of dog are banned. In others, some breeds are automatically considered “dangerous” for purposes of strict liability, even without any previous history of aggressive behavior. On the other hand, in some counties, a dog must have injured or killed a person or domestic animal and/or have been reported to exhibit aggressive behavior.

The strict liability statute covers medical and veterinary expenses only. In order to recover for pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages, the injured person must sue the dog owner.

Negligence

Unlike most personal injury actions, proof of negligence is not required in order to recover damages from the owner of a dog that bites or injures a person. The injured person must prove that the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous or had vicious propensities. This can be established by proving that the dog had previously attacked a person or domestic animal, causing death or serious injury, or that the dog was known to exhibit violent behavior such as growling, snapping, and baring its teeth. Previous vicious behavior cannot be established if the dog was being threatened, harassed, attacked, or was protecting a person or property.

Insurance

Many homeowner’s insurance policies will cover damages caused by pets. Some may not cover certain breeds, such as pit bulls or rottweilers, however.

New York Dog Bite Attorneys

If you or a family member has been bitten or injured by a dog, call The Law Firm of O’Brien and Ford at 716-907-7777 for a free consultation. You may also visit our website at http://obrienandford.com/.