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If a Dog Bites in New York, Who Pays?

On March 9, 2018, a Long Island mother went through unspeakable horror when she and her 2-month-old baby were mauled by a pit bull. They were both hospitalized; the mother being treated for a leg wound while the baby had to undergo cranial surgery after sustaining bites to the head and face. Although it sounds terrifying, dog attacks are unfortunately not uncommon in New York.

In fact, in 2017, there were 49 dog bite fatalities in the United States.

This is why it is so crucial to understand New York’s dog bite law and what you can do if you or your loved one are bitten by a dog, or if your dog bites someone else.

Understanding New York Dog Bite Law and One-Bite Law

New York is what’s referred to as a “mixed” state. This means that it has a dog bite statute that mixes the one-bite rule with a limited degree of strict liability. The one-bite rule means that a dog gets to bite once before its owner is held liable, unless the owner was aware of the fact that the dog is aggressive and capable of injuring someone.

Also, the owner of a previously pronounced “dangerous dog” is strictly liable only for the victim’s medical and veterinary costs. If seeking other damages, the victim is required to prove that the dog had a tendency toward aggressive behavior such as biting people, and that the dog owner was well aware of it. New York does not permit victims to recover compensation on the ground of negligence.

What Is a “Dangerous Dog”?

A dog is dangerous when:

  • the dog, without justification, attacked a person, causing serious physical injury or death; or
  • the dog has a known vicious propensity as evidenced by a previous unjustified attack on a person, which caused serious physical injury or death; or
  • the dog, without justification, caused serious physical injury or death to a companion animal, farm animal, or domestic animal

The owner of a dangerous dog is liable for medical costs resulted from an injury caused by his dog, and may also be required to pay a fine, depending on the seriousness of the injury and whether the dog was previously deemed a dangerous dog. The owner might also be subject to criminal penalties, especially if he allows his dog to cause serious injury.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

After you have been bitten, or after your dog has attacked someone, it is important to remain calm and evaluate the extent of the damage.

  1. Exchange information with the other party, such as names, insurance policies, and the dog’s vaccination history. If anyone witnesses the incident, make sure to get their contact information as well.
  2. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Keep a well-documented file of your wounds, including pictures of the wounds, and pictures of the dog that bit you if possible. If you cannot get a picture of the dog during the time of the bite, write down a description including the dog’s breed, color, size, and any other important features.
  3. Report the dog attack to the local authorities. In New York City, all animal bites must be reported within 24 hours online. Depending on which part of New York you reside in, you may also need to report to your local SPCA or police department.

What Protections Does My Dog Have?

If your dog bit someone because it was provoked, there are several defenses that you can utilize in a civil liability claim. One defense would be if the dog attacked while guarding its home against trespassers—someone who was not legally allowed on the property, or was attempting criminal activity on the property.

Another defense would be if the dog was trying to protect its owner or its own puppies when the attack took place. Or if the dog was reacting to pain when it bit someone. Lastly, if the dog was being provoked or abused by the injured party.

How Severe Does a Dog Bite Need to Be?

Legally, a bite doesn’t have to be severe to be considered harmful. But the severity of the bite will matter when it comes to compensation. Severe physical injuries result in fractures, amputations, lacerations, puncture wounds, and disfigurement as well as bruises and other minor injuries. There are also infections, illnesses, and other long-term medical treatments to consider when dogs attack.

I Was Bitten, What Now?

If a dog has bitten you or your loved one, The Case Handler team at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP may be able to help. We have extensive experience with many practice areas, including dog bite cases, and we may be able to get you the compensation you deserve. Do not hesitate to call us at 212-203-4795 for a free case evaluation.


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