You have a limited time
to file a claim.

Learn More About Dog Bite Lawsuit Liability

an aggresive black dog barking

Were you bitten by a dog recently? During your recovery, you might consider filing a dog bite injury claim to cover the medical bills, lost wages, and other costs you may be facing.

According to the CDC, about 4.5 million Americans sustain dog bites each year, giving rise to almost 340,000 emergency room visits. Dog bite incidents also force nearly 27,000 people to undergo reconstructive surgery, which is why lodging a dog bite liability claim can be so vital.

Can you take action against whoever bears legal responsibility for dog bites you have sustained? Sadaka Law covers dog bite liability cases with knowledge of the latest dog bite laws in New Jersey and relevant jurisdictions. Learn more below.

The State Laws on Dog Bite Liability

Each state takes a different approach to dealing with these cases, with even neighbors like New Jersey and New York not seeing eye-to-eye on dog bite liability. If you’re going to file a lawsuit, it’s helpful to understand what the dog bite laws entail in your specific state.

Variations in State Laws

Dog bite laws fall into two categories: strict liability laws and one-bite laws. What sets these two types of dog bite laws apart?

Strict Liability

In strict liability-favoring states, the dog owners are always responsible for any dog bites that occur on public or private property when a dog bite victim is lawfully visiting it. If a dog bites someone in a strict liability state, their owner will face the legal consequences of dog bites, almost no matter what.

Exceptions to strict liability will only be made if:

  1. The dog was provoked before biting a victim.
  2. A victim was trespassing on private property before the dog bit them.

One-Bite Liability

In one-bite states, dog owners are only responsible for dog bites if they previously had a reason to believe their dog might bite someone.

The state will hold the owner liable for a dog bite in a one-bite state if:

  • Their dog has bitten someone before.
  • Their dog has shown aggression in the past.
  • Their dog has a history of attacking dogs or other animals.

That isn’t to say that an owner’s liability for dog attacks goes out the window in one-bite states because their dog has never shown aggression before. However, to win a case, a dog bite victim will likely need to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent leading up to their dog bite injury.

Examples of Strict Liability States

judge gavel on national American flag

New Jersey is an excellent example of a strict liability state. New Jersey Revised Statutes Section 4:19-16 states that the law will hold dog owners responsible for dog bites on public property or if the person bitten was legally on private property.

The same pet owner liability stance applies in the following states:

  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania

Dog bite victims in strict liability states should explore all their legal options within the statute of limitations, so getting legal advice is important.

Examples of One-Bite States

New York is a good example of a one-bite state but it deviates slightly from the usual dog bite liability rule. New York holds dog owners responsible for dog bites that involve “dangerous dogs.” If a “reasonable person” in New York believes a dog is dangerous, that may be enough to hold the dog’s owner accountable for a dog bite.

Words like “dangerous” and “reasonable” leave one-bite laws very much up to interpretation as personal injury lawyers prove negligence. However, the laws provide protection for dog owners, too, especially when a dog bites someone without warning.

Along with New York, other one-bite states include the following:

  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Wisconsin

There are fewer one-bite states than strict liability states.

Factors Affecting Dog Bite Liability

Labrador dog chasing man

One 2020 study involved more than 13,000 dogs and raised some eyebrows about “man’s best friend.” For example, almost three-quarters of dogs studied exhibited some problematic behavior, which researchers classified as signs of:

  • Fear
  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression
  • Separation anxiety

This study framed dogs as unpredictable, perhaps much more than their owners might think. When the dog faces high-stress situations, the owner’s chances of coming up against state dog bite liability laws might not be as far off as they hope.

Common dog bite injury claims include the ones below.

Provocation By the Dog Bite Victim

Was a dog provoked before they bit someone?

That’s the first question a police officer or personal injury lawyer will ask when investigating a dog bite.

Some things people do to provoke dog bites might include the following:

  • Approaching a dog in a threatening way
  • Teasing a dog
  • Backing a dog into a corner
  • Hitting a dog
  • Threatening a dog’s owner

If a dog bite victim has done these things, it could change how the law views the incident.

An Owner’s Knowledge of the Dog’s Dangerous Tendencies

Did a dog’s owner know it had a propensity for being aggressive and even biting people?

This is another question the police and a legal team will ask during a dog bite investigation. The law expects the owner of an aggressive dog to take extra precautions, especially in the following situations:

  • Their dog has shown signs of aggression in the past.
  • Their dog has tried to bite people, even if unsuccessful.
  • Their dog has bitten other dogs or animals in the past.

A dog owner who shows they didn’t know the dog was predisposed to biting people could have some leeway in court.

Negligence on the Part of the Dog Owner

“There’s no such thing as bad dogs, just bad owners” is a phrase tossed around after dogs bite people. While debatable, the law does take into account the important role that a dog’s owner plays in a dog bite situation.

For instance, investigators look at whether a dog’s owner was negligent during an incident. Some examples of negligence may include:

  • Failed to confine the dog to private property.
  • Failed to hold a dog back when people legally entered the home.
  • Failed to post warning signs about the dog.

Proving negligence on the part of a dog owner can be tricky, but it is an important factor to evaluate when building a case.

Victims’ Rights and Compensation

doctor doing wound dressing and bandaging victim hands

The rights given to dog bite victims vary from state to state. Some states, like New Jersey, give those bitten by dogs more rights than others, enabling them to collect compensation to cover the various costs associated with dog bites.

Rights of Dog Bite Victims in New Jersey

Since New Jersey represents a strict liability state, dog bite victims have a lot of power after a dog bites them. They can file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner. Unless that dog owner can prove the victim was trespassing on private property or provoking the dog, they won’t have much of a leg to stand on in court.

Compensation for Injuries and Damages in New Jersey

Dog bite victims in strict dog bite liability states like New Jersey may be entitled to compensation to cover the following and more:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

However, legal teams advise any dog bite victims to act quickly in taking legal action against a dog’s owner. The statute of limitations for dog bites in New Jersey is just two years.

Insurance Coverage For Dog Bite Liability

The good news for dog owners who inadvertently find themselves involved in a dog bite lawsuit is that they usually won’t have to provide compensation to victims themselves. Their homeowner’s insurance company may provide this coverage.

Homeowner’s Insurance and Dog Bite Coverage

The Insurance Information Institute reported that homeowner’s insurance companies have paid out about $900 million each year to cover dog bite claims. Dog bites appear to be common, as is the compensation they receive to cover their injuries and recovery periods.

Limitations and Exclusions

Homeowner’s insurance companies do put limitations on how much they’ll pay out to dog bite victims, though. Often, a dog bite liability limit falls somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000.

Potential Defenses Against Dog Bite Liability Claims

beware of dog private property signage at the gate

Do dog owners have a few defense angles against dog bite liability lawsuits? Potential approaches against dog bite claims involve the following:

Lack of Ownership or Control

If a dog was not with its owner at the time that it bit someone, an owner might argue that they shouldn’t be held responsible for compensating a dog bite victim. They’ll just need to prove that they weren’t in control of the dog during the attack.

Comparative Negligence of the Victim

Did the dog bite victim play any part in provoking the dog to bite them? This defense, if successful, could reduce the compensation a dog bite victim may collect.

Trespassing or Illegal Activity by the Victim

Understandably, if a dog bite victim was trespassing on private property when a dog bit them, such as when committing a crime, the owner might blame the victim for the attack. It’s one of the strongest defenses in these dog bite-related circumstances.

Steps To Take After a Dog Bite Incident

If you ever find yourself the unfortunate victim of a dog bite, here are some steps to strengthen your dog bite liability claim.

Seek Medical Attention

According to the National Canine Research Council, about 96% of dog bite injuries in emergency rooms fall into the “minor” category. Still, seeking medical attention right away after a dog bite gives you the help you need and the paperwork your claim requires.

Report the Incident

Report the dog bite immediately. In New Jersey, you can call your local health department or police department to file an official report.

Document Evidence

Gather as much evidence as you can following a dog bite. Keep copies of your medical records and take photos of any dog bite injuries you sustained.

Does Breed Play a Role in Dog Bite Liability?

While this is a common question, there’s still a lot of debate around the breed issue. Some dog breeds that appear to be involved in dog bite cases more are pitbulls, rottweilers, and German Shepherds, according to this Forbes report. However, dog bite laws don’t mention breeds when ascertaining dog bite liability.

Do you have other questions about dog bite cases or your own pending dog bite claim? Call Sadaka Law at 800-810-3457 today.



Principal & Founder
This article was written by Mark Sadaka, a seasoned trial lawyer in nationally significant cases. He fearlessly champions clients impacted by fatal or severe injuries caused by others or corporations. Renowned for his expertise in complex litigation, he's featured in books, sought after by media for interviews, and a highly sought speaker. Notably, he exclusively represents individuals facing life-changing injuries or substantial financial losses.

Injured? Get Help Now.

If you’ve been injured by a person, product, or corporation, please contact the team at Sadaka Law today.

Sign up to get the latest news and updates from Sadaka Law