Do You Have a Dog Bite Case in New Jersey?

Suffering an attack from a dog can be both a traumatizing event and cause you serious physical injuries requiring extensive medical treatment.  Whether you have a dog bite case if you were bitten by a dog in New Jersey depends on where you were attacked by the dog, if you can prove the dog was owned by the defendant, and that your injuries were from the dog attack. An experienced dog bite attorney will be able to help you determine this.

New Jersey’s dog bite statute is § 4:19-16. “Liability of owner regardless of viciousness of dog.”  Under this statute, “The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”  What does this mean?  If someone’s dog bites you, that dog owner is liable for your injuries for that bite regardless of how vicious the dog was or if it attacked someone in the past. This type of liability is also known as strict liability.

What Kind Of Dog Bites Can Turn Into Personal Injury Cases?

Just because you were bitten by someone’s dog does not automatically mean you will have a case.  You will also have to prove that the dog attack happened on either public property or private property that you had a right to be on.  For example, if you were hired by someone to do work at their home and you were attacked by their dog while doing that work, that dog owner will likely be liable for your injuries.  Landscaping jobs, constructions jobs, and mail delivery are all examples of such work. Likewise, if you were an invited guest at someone’s home and their dog attacks you, that person will be liable for your injuries.  There is also a grey area where you may not have been explicitly invited onto someone’s property, but there was an implied invitation to be on their property.  In that scenario the dog owner would also be at fault for dog bite injuries their dog caused you.  However, if you were trespassing on someone’s private property, and were attacked by their dog, there is likely no grey area and you will not have a dog bite claim against that dog owner since you were not lawfully on their property.

There are also other scenarios where a dog owner will not be at fault or liable for your injuries if their dog attacks you.  If you are a veterinarian caring for a dog and it bites you, under New Jersey law the dog owner will likely not be liable for your injuries.  This is because the dog owner has relinquished supervision of the dog to you, the veterinarian, for treatment purposes.  There is also a general independent contractor exemption for liability in New Jersey for a dog attack.  If a dog owner turns over their dog to you to care for the dog, they are not automatically liable for injuries you suffer if that dog bites you.  In this scenario the dog owner is only at fault for dog bite injuries if you can prove the owner knew, or had reason to know, the dog was vicious and withheld that information.  This can be proven with evidence of past attacks by the dog which the dog owner knew about.  You can obtain past dog attack information through police reports or witness statements about past dog attacks by the dog.  Of course you will also have to show you received no warning about the viciousness of the dog.

What Happens If You Provoked The Animal Into Attacking You?

Another scenario where a dog owner may not be liable for your injuries is if the dog owner can prove that you provoked or aggravated their dog into attacking you.  If there is evidence that you did provoke a dog into attacking you, this can prevent you from recovering for any injuries you suffered from the dog attack.  Whether your actions are considered sufficient to be seen as provocation will depend on the facts of your case.

How do you prove a dog attacked you?  This can be shown through witness testimony – whether they be random bystanders who are willing to testify in your case, or friends or family who were with you when you were attacked.  The police are typically contacted when there is a dog attack to check on the dog’s rabies shots, etc. and their report can be used as evidence of the attack.  If the attack happens on the job and you report the attack to your supervisor, any incident reports created by your job about the attack can also be used as evidence of it.

How do you prove the injuries you suffered from the attack?

How do you prove the injuries you suffered from the attack?  This can be done by photographs of those injuries as well as medical records of your treatment for those injuries.  In some instances, your attorney may get a report from your treating doctor about your injuries – such as when you will need ongoing medical treatment in the future for those injuries.  If you miss time from work due to your injuries your lost wages can be proven through pay stubs and tax returns showing what your wages were.  Any outstanding medical bills for your treatment can be shown by obtaining your medical records as well. 

The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling dog bite and dog attack cases in New Jersey.  If you suffered a dog attack in Philadelphia, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.

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