Dog Bites

My child was playing at a park and she decided to pet a strange dog. Unfortunately, she was bitten on the arm before I could get to her and now she is afraid of all dogs. Can I sue for my daughter’s injuries?

When you sue for injuries, you should remember that you are suing the dog’s owner. So if the “strange” dog was a stray dog with no owner, then there is no one to sue.  But, if the dog was owned by a person, then your daughter might have a claim.

The law in New Jersey holds dog owners responsible for dog bites.  The law in New York is less favorable for dog bite victims. Most dog owners are not responsible for injuries the first time their pet bites someone. The reason owners are not responsible is because the pet owner had no notice of their dog’s “vicious propensities.” But once the dog bites someone, there is notice and the pet owner is responsible for medical bills and pain and suffering your daughter endured. The location of the dog bite incident will generally determine which state law applies.

Dog bite claims are generally covered by the pet owner’s renter’s or homeowner’s insurance.

Man’s Best Friend

I own a dog. Although, generally, the dog is friendly, it is very large and powerful and I am concerned if he should ever run into another dog or person that antagonized him. Do I need to do anything to protect myself from liability?

As long as your dog has shown no signs of aggression toward humans or animals, you would not be liable for any incident that may occur. Dogs are considered domestic animals and, short of prior bites or other outward signs of aggression, owners of domestic animals are not liable for the acts of their pets unless the owner knew or should have known of demonstrated vicious propensities of their pet.

But if you had a pet rattlesnake, that rattlesnake is considered a wild animal and the owner of the pet rattlesnake would be liable for any attacks or bites. But remember, if the snake attacks another animal, the snake owner would be liable for vet bills up to the amount of the value of the animal itself. If the snake attacks a human, the snake owner would be liable for medical bills of the snake’s victim as well as pain and suffering of the victim.

If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you should notify them about your pets so in the event an incident occurs with the pet, the homeowner’s or renter’s insurance would cover you for any damages.