Are Dog Owners Liable for Bite Injuries?

By David Hammond

Dog bites are distressing events that can inflict lasting physical and emotional scars. If you’re on the receiving end of such an injury, it’s natural to wonder about your recourse and who might be held accountable. The intricacies of liability in dog bite cases highlight the importance of understanding the legal framework governing dog owner responsibilities for these injuries.

Understanding Dog Owner Liability in New York

New York distinguishes itself from states with a “one-bite rule” by enforcing a strict liability approach towards dog bites. This legal stance means that dog owners are usually liable for injuries their pets cause, independent of any previous aggressive behavior exhibited by the dog. In New York, an owner’s responsibility includes covering medical expenses stemming from a dog bite without the victim needing to demonstrate the owner’s negligence.

Exceptions to Strict Liability

Despite the overarching principle of strict liability, exceptions exist that can influence a dog owner’s liability. For example, liability might not be strictly applied if the injured party was trespassing or if the dog was provoked before the incident. These exceptions allow for a nuanced examination of liability, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the bite.

Beyond Strict Liability: The Role of Negligence

Victims may also explore negligence claims against dog owners. Such claims necessitate showing that the owner did not reasonably prevent the dog from causing harm, possibly due to ignorance or disregard of the animal’s aggressive nature. Successfully arguing negligence requires illustrating the owner’s failure in duty of care towards preventing the bite.

Potential Defenses for Dog Owners

Dog owners aren’t without defenses. Exemptions exist, for instance, when dogs bite during official duties in police or military capacities, or if the victim was conducting illegal activities on the property. These defenses can mitigate or entirely negate the owner’s liability in certain situations.

The Role of Landlords in Dog Bite Cases

Liability may also extend to landlords in circumstances where they were aware of, but neglected to address, the presence of a potentially dangerous dog on their property. This broadens the scope of liability, implicating not just the dog owner but possibly the property owner as well, thereby adding a layer of complexity to dog bite litigation.

Our Dog Bite Injury Attorney Can Help You Today

Dog bite incidents can have serious consequences for victims, both physically and emotionally. Understanding the legal landscape surrounding dog owner liability in New York is crucial for those seeking compensation for their injuries. Whether through strict liability, negligence claims, or potential defenses, navigating the legal complexities requires the expertise of experienced personal injury attorneys.

As New Yorkers enjoy the company of their furry friends, it is essential to be aware of the responsibilities that come with being a dog owner and the legal consequences that may arise in the unfortunate event of a dog bite. If you have sustained a bite injury, do not hesitate to reach out to CDH Law for assistance. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.