Dog Bites

Under New York Law, if a dog bit victim can establish that the subject dog had a "vicious propensity", the owner of the dog can be held strictly liable for the victim's injuries and damages. New York's highest court has held that the owner of a domestic animal who either knows, or should have known, of the animal's vicious propensities, will be held liable for the harm the animal causes as a result of those propensities. Examples of a "vicious propensity", include prior instances showing that the dog attacked, bit, growled or bared its teeth at someone prior to the incident.

However, New York State allows "one free bite" which means, in essence, that an owner will generally not be held liable if the incident in question involves the dog's first bite or injury to another. In this instance, the owner can be absolved of liability unless the dog bite victim can prove that the owner knew, or should have known, that the dog was acting dangerously on the day in question and failed to use reasonable care in restraining the dog.

Statistics show that there are approximately 1 Million people nationwide who require medical treatment for dog bites every year and that more of half of the animal attack victims are children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most dangerous dog breeds include:

  • Pit bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Huskies
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Doberman Pinchers
  • Chows
  • Great Danes
  • Saint Bernards
  • Akitas

Despite this, New York State law holds that the breed of the dog, in and of itself, is not necessarily determinative of liability.

A dog bite victim can file a claim or lawsuit against the owner of the dog. Once liability is established, the dog bite victim is entitled to be compensated for their injuries, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, medical costs, loss of earnings or any other out-of-pocket expenses. These claims are typically covered by either home owners, renters or landlord's insurance

Anyone who has been the victim of a dog bite, should make sure to do the following:

  • Notify the proper local agency about the dog's vicious nature (§121 of the New York Agriculture and Markets Law allows for a victim, in certain circumstances, to recover medical expenses if the dog is defined as a dangerous dog, even where the victim cannot demonstrate vicious propensities existed); and
  • Take photographs of any injuries sustained, the area where the dog attach occurred, including a depiction of whether or not there were any signs warning of the vicious nature of the animal or a cage where the dog should have been confined.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite, please contact us for a free consultation.