How Likely Are You to Be Bit?

In one year alone, “an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occurred in the United States,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2)

The CDC reports in another year, “an estimated 368,245 persons were treated for dog bite-related injuries.” Many of these injuries were done to children. (3)

“In the 14-year period of 2005 through 2018, canines killed 471 Americans,” adds the nonprofit organization, (4)

If you have suffered serious dog bite injuries, been mauled by a dog, or a family member has died from a vicious dog attack, you may be eligible to sue to gain compensation for your injuries or loss.

Serious Bite Injuries

The Mayo Clinic explains that while minor animal bites often only break the skin, the more serious bites are deep puncture wounds. In other cases, “skin is badly torn, crushed or bleeding significantly.” (5)

Sometimes, dog attacks can cause severe disfiguring injuries or even death. Serious bites require immediate medical attention.

Whether the bite is minor or major, there is also a risk of rabies if the dog has not been properly vaccinated. If records are not available, it must be assumed there is a risk and medical treatment – rabies shots – needs to begin.

Tracking Dog Bites in New York City

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tracks dog bite cases within the city. Data shows there were almost 400 dog bite cases in one month alone. (6)

The significant number of cases underscores the need for strong dog bite liability laws.

Strict Liability Laws

“Approximately 36 states have strict liability laws for dog bites,” says the Animal Legal & Historical Center. (7)

Strict liability laws make owners responsible for the harm or injury caused by their pets.

“Essentially, the dog owner has to pay for the dog bite victim’s injury even if the dog never seemed dangerous or vicious in the past,” explains the Center. (8)

In other states, dog bite strict liability laws apply only to particular breeds deemed vicious.

“Some states and municipalities have ‘breed specific’ statutes that identify breeds such as pit bulls as dangerous; in others individual dogs can be designated as vicious,” according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). (9)

New York Dog Bite Law

As of 2019, New York state does not have a strict liability law. However, some cities and municipalities in New York have dog bite laws which identify specific breeds as dangerous and apply a strict liability law.

The breeds often considered to be dangerous include pit bulls and Rottweilers. These breeds have a history of aggression.

These breeds account for 358, that’s 76%, of people killed in the U.S. by dogs between 2005 and 2018. (10)

Generally, New York law says dog owners are legally responsible for the damage and harm their pets cause (strict liability), if their pets have formerly been declared dangerous.

New York pet owners must pay all medical bills for injuries resulting from certain of their pets. However, that liability applies only to a pet already deemed to be a “dangerous dog.”

New York’s Definition of a “Dangerous Dog”

Under New York State Law, a “dangerous dog” is defined as any dog which without justification attacks a person, companion animal, farm animal, domestic animal, or service animal and causes physical injury or death. (11)

The “dangerous dog” label also applies to any dog who “behaves in a manner which a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.” (12)

There are some exceptions to the “dangerous dog” label.

Trespassing & Other Exceptions

The “dangerous dog” label cannot be applied to dogs when the injuries were sustained by someone committing a crime like trespassing – when you do not have permission to be on a property. A dog is also not considered a “dangerous dog” if you are committing other offense upon the owner of the dog or upon the property of the owner. (13)

It also cannot be applied to a dog protecting an owner, its owner’s property, or a member of their owner’s household. (14)

The “dangerous dog” label also isn’t valid when the dog was responding to pain or injury, has endured inhumane treatment such as torment or abuse by the person it attacked, or was protecting itself or its offspring. (15)

Steps to Take When Seriously Injured by a Dog in New York

There are steps you should take if you were seriously injured by a dog in New York. These steps include:

  • First and most important, seek medical attention.
  • Obtain the name and contact information for the dog’s owners.
  • If the dog’s owners seem friendly, ask them for their liability insurance information.
  • Document the scene by taking cell phone pictures of the dog involved, any bites and physical injuries you suffered, your torn clothing, and any property damaged.
  • Get witness contact information.
  • File an incident report with local animal control or the police.
  • Later, contact the dog’s owner by writing a letter detailing what happened.
    • Include an itemized list of expenses.
    • Indicate any local or state dog bite laws.
    • Give a deadline for payment.
    • Mention that homeowner’s insurance may cover the dog owner’s costs.
  • Gather information and speak to neighbors to find out if they have ever seen another person get bitten by the dog or the dog lunging toward someone.
  • Consider filing a lawsuit.

Were you or a loved one seriously injured by a dog attack? Speak to an experienced attorney today for a free consultation.

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How to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit in New York

A good first step in filing a dog bite lawsuit in New York is to determine if the dog owner is liable.

Next, you need to demonstrate that your injuries resulted directly from the dog bite. This is where your documentation of the scene, including pictures and the incident report, helps support your claim.

Your documentation should contain a complete list of costs resulting from your injuries including:

  • Lost wages and time off to seek medical treatments.
  • Medical expenses.
  • Physical therapy costs.
  • Psychological trauma.
  • Preventative treatments, such as rabies shots.
  • Repairs to damaged property.

Hire an attorney. If the owners of the dog are protected by insurance, the attorney may negotiate a settlement with their insurance company. If the owners are not protected by insurance, the attorney can file a claim against the owners in court.

How Long Do You Have to Sue?

There is a statute of limitations (time limit) for filing dog bite lawsuits. New York law allows you to sue only within 3 years from the date the bite occurred.

Most dog bite lawsuits are personal injury cases handled in civil courts. However, there are times when you may want to press criminal charges against the owner.

Pressing Criminal Charges

Criminal charges against a dog’s owner may be filed if the owner negligently allows the dog to bite someone, if the dog has a prior history of being a “dangerous dog,” and when the injuries are serious.

Serious injuries cause death, increase the risk of death, or lead to protracted disfigurement or impaired function of a body organ. (16)

Negligence under New York law is when an owner knows the dog has a history of aggressive behavior but does not use reasonable care to warn others. And, if the dog in question unjustifiably kills or causes the death of someone, the owner is guilty of a class A misdemeanor in addition to any other penalties. (17)

Defenses Against Dog Bite Claims in New York

Dog owners may defend themselves and their pets against dog bite claims using several strategies: (18)

  • The dog was protecting the property of the owner from someone trespassing or committing another crime.
  • The dog was being tormented or abused, threatened, or attacked by the person bitten or injured.
  • The dog was reacting to pain or injury, was protecting its owner, home, or offspring.

Protecting Yourself from Dog Bite Lawsuits

If you own a dog, “Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability. Most policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage,” advises the III. (19) So check your homeowners policy to be sure you are covered and what the limits of coverage are.

The III cautions that while homeowners policies cover dogs, once the dog has bitten someone it poses a greater risk to others. As a result, your premiums may increase, or the dog may be excluded from coverage. (20)

Additionally, III suggests you may want to purchase a broader personal liability policy or “umbrella” policy that provides greater protection from a wide range of possible lawsuits. (21)

Tips for Prevention

Ultimately, training and control of a dog is the responsibility of the pet owner. To help promote responsible pet ownership, the CDC recommends everyone follow certain actions when coming in contact with a dog.

When meeting a dog:

  • Allow the dog to see and sniff you before petting it.
  • Ask the owner’s permission before petting the dog, even if the dog seems friendly.
  • Let the dog approach you first.
  • Remain still when the dog approaches you.

With unfamiliar dogs:

  • Do not approach unfamiliar dogs.
  • Do not panic, make loud noises, or run from a dog.
  • If an unfamiliar dog approaches you remain calm, stay still, and avoid eye contact with the dog.

Your family pets:

  • Always supervise young children when playing with dogs.
  • Do not encourage your dog to play aggressively or roughhouse.
  • Socialize your dog and use a leash when in public.

For general safety:

  • Do not pet a dog hiding, sick, or appears scared or angry.
  • Never disturb a dog while it is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
  • Never try to break up dog fights. (22)

Weitz & Luxenberg Can Help With Your Lawsuit

Weitz & Luxenberg has a successful personal injury litigation team with experience in a wide range of cases. Our team of dedicated attorneys wins verdicts and negotiates settlements on behalf of clients.

We have won millions of dollars for clients like you who suffered personal injury due to someone else’s negligence.

If you have been bitten by a dog and have suffered serious injuries, your best option to get a free consultation with an attorney. Our experienced legal team can review your case and explore your options.