Dog bites and dog attacks are surprisingly common here in New Jersey compared to other states. In 2017 with 686 dog bite claims, New Jersey came in at number 9 leaving only 8 states with more dog bite claims.
One of the reasons that it is surprising to our Dog Attack Attorneys is because New Jersey is not soft on dog attacks. You may have heard of the “one bite” rule, but New Jersey does not have it.
New Jersey’s law (with a few exceptions) is that the dog owner is responsible for dog bites, regardless of ever previously biting or showing dangerous propensities. See below for a further explanation.
New Jersey Strict Liability
New Jersey’s strict liability for dog attacks is that the dog owner is responsible for the injuries and damages sustained by a dog bite victim. In general, a dog bite victim only needs to prove that the defendant was the owner of the dog and that when the dog bite occurred, the plaintiff was on public property or legally on private property (not a trespasser). Even when a plaintiff cannot prove the elements of strict liability, New Jersey permits recovery for dog bites under other legal theories.
Defenses For A Dog Bite Case
There are several defenses that dog owners commonly raise in dog attack cases described below.
- Provocation – Defendants may argue that the dog only bit or attacked because the plaintiff provoked it.
- Defendant was not the owner – It seems that this would be fairly easy to prove or disprove, but this defense is raised more often than you might think. Defendants sometimes claim to have given the dog away to a neighbor, that the dog went with the ex-spouse in a divorce, or that the dog ran away and the defendant has had no knowledge of where the dog was.
- Trespass – Trespass may be a valid defense in some cases, but in other cases it is not. For example, a trespass defense raised against a child trespasser who was bitten by a dog is probably not going to be a valid defense.
- Injury disputes – The defendant may argue that even though he or she is the dog owner and the dog did in fact bite the victim, the victim did not sustain the claimed injuries or the injuries were not as extensive as claimed.
- Statute of limitations – In cases where the dog bite victim has waited too long to file a claim, the defendant will argue that the statute of limitations has run and the case should be dismissed.
Our clients are sometimes worried about damaging relationships with family, friends, or neighbors if they seek recovery for injuries and damages. We tell them usually it is an insurance company that will be paying the costs of the claim and that can make it easier on the relationship.
And more importantly, we tell them that a dog attack is not their fault and they deserve recovery for their injuries and damages. As a dog owner, you should (legally and ethically) take responsibility for your dog’s actions.