You might assume that if you are ever bitten by a dog, you will be able to file a claim against its owner to recover damages. But in New York, your ability to receive compensation and the type of compensation you receive depend on the circumstances — including the dog’s possible vicious tendencies and the owner’s knowledge of them.
New York law generally follows the “one bite” rule, which means a dog owner will not be held liable for injuries to others if, to the owner’s knowledge, the dog had not bitten before. However, if the victim can prove that the dog had vicious tendencies that the owner knew or should have known about, then the owner is strictly liable for the victim’s medical costs. To recover further damages, such as pain and suffering or emotional trauma, the victim needs to prove the owner was negligent by not keeping the dog restrained.
The key to recovering damages in most dog bite cases is proving that the owner had knowledge of the dog’s prior aggressive behavior. Courts often conclude that an owner knew or should have known of such behavior when:
- The animal has bitten before — An owner cannot deny a dog’s vicious tendencies if he/she knows the dog has bitten before.
- There are previous complaints — Other people’s complaints about the dog’s aggressiveness or attacking behavior can be evidence that the owner knew of the dog’s tendencies.
- The dog was trained to fight — Owners who train their dogs to attack are fully aware that the animal is dangerous.
- There is a history of vicious behavior — The dog may have a history of chasing people or other animals or of barking viciously while behind a fence, signaling that it would attack if the fence weren’t there.
Dog owners under certain circumstances may not bear any liability for an attack:
- The dog had never bitten before, to the owner’s knowledge — This is the “one bite” rule. An owner is generally not liable for a dog bite unless he or she knows the dog has bitten before or has a vicious tendency.
- Provocation by the victim — A victim who attempts to assault a dog, assault its owner or otherwise provoke the animal cannot sue if the dog bites as a result.
- Trespassing by the victim — A person who is on the owner’s property without consent cannot sue over a dog bite, even if the dog was known to have bitten before.
Goldberg Sager & Associates has successfully handled personal injury cases on behalf of dog bite victims throughout New York City. If you or a family member have been attacked, we’ll investigate the animal’s history and pursue all legal remedies available. Please call our Brooklyn office at 718-514-9516 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer today.