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What Is New York’s Dog Bite Law? | Kerner Law Group, P.C.

Each year, more than 350,000 dog bites happen across the US, with many of them occurring in New York. Victims of these vicious and possibly devastating attacks often have questions regarding their rights, ability to sue, and more.

In this guide, we explore New York’s Dog Bite Law and how it may apply to you or a loved one.

What Is New York’s Dog Bite Law?

New York’s Dog Bite Law encompasses both a common law doctrine and specific statutory provisions to determine liability in dog bite cases.

In the realm of New York State’s legal landscape, this law is pivotal in addressing the responsibilities of dog owners when their dogs attack or bite a person.

Under the common law doctrine often referred to as the “one-bite rule,” New York courts have held that a dog owner can be held liable for injuries if they had prior knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities. This doesn’t strictly mean a dog gets a “free first bite”; instead, it places the onus on the owner to prove they lacked knowledge of such behavior if their dog bit a person.

However, it’s crucial to differentiate between this rule and the dog bite statute in New York State. As per the statutory provisions, even if a dog owner had no prior knowledge of the dog’s vicious tendencies, they can still be held liable for a victim’s medical and veterinary costs. This is due to New York’s strict liability approach when it comes to these specific damages from dog bites.

Additionally, even if an owner wasn’t aware of a previous incident where their dog attacked a person, they could still be held liable for subsequent injuries. This means that knowledge of previous harm is not the sole criterion for establishing liability in New York State.

For victims of dog attacks in New York State, understanding this law is paramount. It provides avenues to seek reparations for injuries and damages incurred. Likewise, a dog owner should be keenly aware of their potential liabilities, ensuring they manage their domestic animal responsibly to avoid legal complications.

A ‘Mixed’ State Can Make Things Confusing

As it relates to dog bites, New York is what we call a ‘mixed state.’ Statutes regarding dog bites and attacks blend what is known as a ‘one bite rule’ with a limited degree of strict liability.

What does this mean? New York statutes make a keeper or owner of a previously adjudicated ‘dangerous’ canine ‘strictly’ liable for the dog bite victim’s veterinary and medical costs only.

The dog bite laws in New York present a unique challenge for both victims and dog owners. The statute that mixes the one-bite rule with a limited degree of strict liability means that dog bite cases are handled under a combination of strict liability and negligence. Essentially, while a person can claim medical costs without proving negligence, they need to demonstrate the owner’s prior knowledge of their dog’s aggressive tendencies for further damages.

This system aims to strike a balance. It provides immediate relief for victims in the form of covered medical bills while also offering protection for dog owners whose pets may have unexpectedly acted out for the first time. By integrating both strict liability and allowances for dogs not known to be aggressive, New York aims to ensure fairness in every dog attack situation.

For many people, the intricate interplay of rules and liabilities can seem overwhelming. If a person is navigating the aftermath of a dog bite, understanding these nuances becomes crucial. And while every dog’s behavior might be unpredictable, the state’s approach seeks to consider the perspectives of all parties involved.

The One Bite Law in New York

New York’s ‘one bite’ law states that the owner of a dog is only liable for injuries caused by the canine’s (or other animal’s) actions if, and only IF, the owner or keeper has previous knowledge of the dog’s propensity to display vicious behavior in the past.

The statute that governs this is more complex than its name suggests. While the one-bite rule seems to imply a singular event, the crux of the matter rests on an owner’s knowledge of their dog vicious tendencies. It doesn’t strictly mean that a dog gets a “free” bite without consequences but rather focuses on the owner’s awareness of potential risks.

Often, dog bite lawyers encounter challenges in such cases. Proving an owner’s prior knowledge can be intricate, and the nuances of New York dog bite laws can further complicate matters. However, with proper legal guidance, victims can navigate the complexities of the system to seek justice for their injury. Given that dog bites are just one subset of animal-related accidents, the importance of understanding this specific case type can’t be stressed enough.

For dog bite victims, the harm inflicted isn’t just physical. The emotional trauma following such an event can be long lasting, emphasizing the significance of seeking appropriate personal injury compensation and support. Whether through medical treatment or counseling, addressing the aftermath becomes paramount for recovery.

Circumstances Highlighting Liability and Negligence Under NY’s One-Bite Rule

In all cases, there must be evidence that the pet owner had knowledge of past behavior exhibited by the dog that may suggest a future dog bite attack.

Consider a buffalo dog owner who has witnessed their pet growl or snap at strangers multiple times. Should that dog eventually bite a person, the owner’s prior awareness of the dog’s aggressive tendencies could establish a basis for liability under the one-bite rule. In situations like these, where dogs have shown previous signs of aggression, the dog bite laws of New York would lean towards holding the owner accountable.

Now, let’s say a person had been bitten during an unexpected accident, like during a sudden loud noise or unexpected movement. Even then, if there’s evidence that the dog had shown similar reactions in past startling situations, the owner might still be deemed negligent. People often overlook or dismiss minor aggressive behaviors, thinking they won’t escalate, but the laws are clear: past behavior is a significant indicator of future risk.

Proving negligence in such cases can be challenging, but it’s crucial for ensuring that the dog bite victim gets the justice they deserve.

Situations When a Court May Hold a Dog Owner Liable for an Attack

When dogs act aggressively, leading to people getting bitten, the legal system steps in to assess the situation and determine who should be held accountable.

In New York, while the general rule is that an owner should be aware of their dog’s propensity to attack, there are specific circumstances that courts look into to establish liability. If someone has been bitten, it’s not just about the physical pain but also the emotional trauma that comes with such an event.

Often, people are unaware of their rights and the nuances of the law. This is where New York dog bite lawyers play a pivotal role. They understand the intricacies of injury accidents involving animals, and their expertise can help clarify the gray areas surrounding dog owner liabilities. It’s important for a victim to know that their suffering is acknowledged and that there’s a legal avenue to seek redress for the negligence of a pet owner.

Specifically, courts in New York will often consider the following scenarios when determining a dog owner’s liability:

  • The pet has bitten an individual in the past.
  • The animal has acted in a frightening or vicious manner in the past. Examples may include ferocious and aggressive barking, charging, growling, showing teeth, etc.
  • The dog has been trained to fight or defend against intruders or attackers.
  • Prior complaints have been issued or reported regarding the dog’s violent or aggressive behavior.

Working with an experienced New York dog bite lawyer or animal attack attorney is paramount to establishing liability in court and achieving maximum recovery of compensation under NY law.

Circumstances Limiting Liability for Dog Owners After Bite Injuries Per NY’s Dog Bite Law

Per New York’s nuanced regulations, several situations might absolve a dog owner from blame:

  • When the dog has never bitten or displayed aggressive behavior in the past (or when this cannot be proven)
  • If the plaintiff was trespassing on the private property of the defendant without thei consent
  • In situations where the plaintiff may have intentionally provoked an attack

For anyone who finds themselves a victim of a dog bite, it’s essential to recognize that not every incident will lead to a successful personal injury claim. Knowledge of these exceptions can help set realistic expectations and better navigate the legal complexities of such cases. Seeking guidance from a professional familiar with New York’s unique dog bite laws will ensure you’re adequately informed and represented.

New York Dog Bite Lawyer – Have Questions About Your Rights as a Dog Bite Victim in New York?

Nearly one thousand individuals across the US require medical attention due to dog bites daily. If you find yourself among these unfortunate victims, you may be wondering what type of legal recourse you have against the owner.

Although New York has some of the most lenient dog bite injury laws in the nation, an experienced dog bite attorney from our firm can make a world of difference and can ensure your claim is positioned to achieve maximum compensation if won. Contact the Kerner Law Group, P.C. today at (718) 796-7900.

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