How Does New York’s Dog Bite Law Work?
It stands to reason that pet owners should be responsible for the actions of their pets, particularly if their pets are known to be vicious. Dog bites can be serious, both in terms of the severity of the injury caused and the trauma associated with an animal attack. If someone else’s dog bites you, can you bring a claim against the dog’s owner for damages? The answer is: It depends. Learn below about New York’s dog bite law and contact a knowledgeable Hudson Valley personal injury lawyer with any questions or for help if you have suffered injury from an animal attack.
New York’s mixed dog bite rule
Different states have different rules for when a pet owner can be held liable for attacks perpetrated by their pets. Some states require that an injured plaintiff prove negligence, i.e., that the pet owner should have taken care to prevent the attack and somehow failed to do so. Other states have a strict liability rule. In those states, owners are always responsible for the actions of their pets, regardless of how well they protected against possible bites. New York falls somewhere in between the two.
In New York, a dog owner may be strictly liable for a dog bite if the dog was known to be “dangerous” (or “vicious”). A “dangerous dog” is one that, “without justification,” has either (a) attacked and injured or killed a person, or (b) “behaves in a manner which a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death” to a person or service animal. If a person had reason to know their dog was “vicious,” they will be liable for the dog’s attack.
The owner of a dangerous dog is strictly liable, meaning liable regardless of their level of fault, for medical costs associated with their dog’s bite to a person or service animal (such as a seeing-eye dog or companion animal). For damages other than medical costs, the plaintiff must prove that the owner was negligent. Negligence means that the owner failed to use reasonable care to prevent injuries. For example, an owner may be negligent if they let a dangerous dog off the leash in a public area.
If the dog was not known to be vicious and the bite was the dog’s first unprovoked attack, then the injured party must demonstrate that the owner was negligent in order to collect any damages. If, for example, the dog was properly fenced and restrained in the owner’s yard, and it broke through the fence unexpectedly and attacked someone, the owner may not owe damages.
Additionally, if the owner was negligent and that negligence led to the attack, they may also owe a fine. The amount of the fine will depend on whether they knew the dog to be dangerous, the severity of the injury, and whether the injury was to a person or animal.
Defenses to dog bite claims include that the dog was protecting its home or owner when it bit someone, that the alleged victim provoked the dog, that the dog was experiencing pain or suffering when it lashed out, or that the dog was a law enforcement dog carrying out its duties.
Help is Available After an Animal Attack in the Hudson Valley
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite or other animal attack in New York, find out if you’re entitled to money damages through a personal injury lawsuit by contacting the seasoned and talented Hudson Valley personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Taran M. Provost, PLLC, with offices in Mahopac and Poughkeepsie.