While some persons who are a victim of a dog bite may be liable for the incident, such as when someone is burglarizing a home and is bitten by a dog, the majority of victims of dog bites are not. In the majority of cases, the dog owner bears responsibility for their dog biting someone. It does not matter if the dog is big, like a Rottweiler, or small, like a Chihuahua, if someone's dog bites you unprovoked, they may be liable for your injuries.
The One Bite Rule
The “one bite” rule refers to the precedent that after the first time a dog has bitten someone, subsequent bites would be subject to lawsuits. Based on the dog's past behavior of biting, the owner would be strictly liable because they know, or should have known, about the dog's dangerous nature. Thus, the owner should have taken necessary precautions to prevent the dog from biting someone again.
New York still operates on the one bite rule but also applies strict liability to medical bills meaning if you are bit once, regardless of how many times the dog has bitten someone or if the owner tried to restrain or control the dog, your medical bills will be covered by the owner. Otherwise, the theory of negligence applies to the dog bite case.
The Dangerous Dog
In New York, a dangerous dog is any dog that without justification, attacks a person, companion animal, farm animal or domestic animal and causes physical injury or death, or behaves in a manner that a “reasonable person” would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to one or more persons, companion animals, farm animals or domestic animals, or without justification attacks a service dog, guide dog or hearing dog and causes physical injury or death.
What does “reasonable person” mean?
A reasonable person is an ordinary person who uses average care, skill, and judgment.
What does “serious physical injury” mean?
Serious physical injury means an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes death or serious or prolonged disfigurement, impairment of health, or the prolonged loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
What does “physical injury” mean?
Physical Injury means physical harm/injury or substantial pain.
How Is a dog deemed a "Dangerous Dog"?
After a complaint is made to dog control or a police officer, either you or the dog control/police officer will go before the judge. The judge will determine at that time whether there is “probable cause” to determine that the dog is dangerous. Probable cause means that there is sufficient reason to believe that the dog is a dangerous dog. If the judge finds that there is sufficient reason to believe this, then the judge will issue an order requiring that the dog be taken away from the owner immediately.
Whether or not the judge orders that the dog be taken away, the judge must hold a hearing within 5 days regarding the complaint. The owner must receive written notice of the hearing at least 2 days prior to the hearing.
What happens if a judge determines a dog is dangerous?
If the dog is found to be dangerous, the judge MUST order: 1) neutering/spaying the dog; and 2) microchipping the dog.
The judge MAY order one or more of the following, if necessary for the protection of the public: a) evaluation of the dog – by certified behavioral expert, paid for by the owner, b) secure humane confinement – for appropriate period of time and manner, c) restraint of dog – on leash by adult whenever on public grounds, d) muzzling the dog – whenever on public premises, e) maintenance of liability insurance policy – in amount determined by the court, up to $100,000 for personal injury or death resulting from attack.
Under certain “aggravating circumstances,” the court may order humane euthanasia or permanent confinement of the dog. Aggravating circumstances refer to the following: 1) the dog, without justification, attacked a person causing serious physical injury or death; 2) the dog has a known vicious propensity evidenced by previous unjustified attacks on a person causing serious injury or death; 3) the dog, without justification, caused serious physical injury or death to a companion animal, farm animal or domestic animal, and in the past two years, caused similar unjustified attacks evidenced by a “dangerous dog” finding. The third aggravating circumstance requires a prior finding that the dog was a dangerous dog. For example, even if the dog killed a neighbor's cat a year before this incident, unless a court found that the dog was dangerous then, this third aggravating circumstance is not met.
What Can you Recover?
- Medical Costs
- Pain and Suffering
- Lost Wages
- Lost Future Wages
If you or someone you love has been a victim of a dog bite, call me today at (631) 938-6543. I offer a free consultation to discuss your case and can provide you with answers to your questions regarding your rights when it comes to dogs bites, and next steps.