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When Fido Turns Ferocious: Differences Between New York and New Jersey Dog Bite Laws

Posted by James Hunt | Oct 19, 2021

Dog bites and attacks are fairly common in the metropolitan tri-state area. In fact, dog attacks have only increased recently as dog ownership has risen during the Covid-19 pandemic. New Jersey and New York both have dog bite laws in place to protect the public in the event of a dog attack. But New Jersey and New York's dog bite laws have a few key differences. The main difference between New York and New Jersey dog bite laws is that New York follows a combination of the “one bite” and strict liability rules, and New Jersey follows strict liability rules. However, exceptions to both apply. You should always speak with a dog bite injury lawyer if you need personalized legal advice.

In this post, the Hunt & Associates, LLC legal team addresses the differences between dog bite laws in New York vs. New Jersey, how to handle the aftermath of an attack, and where you can get legal help.

Difference 1. Liability

Liability is a legal term referring to the party responsible for an accident or an injury.  In the context of a dog bite case, this person is usually the dog's owner. However, a business owner or government entity could also play a role.

Here are the differences between New Jersey's law on dog bite cases and New York's law as to dog bite cases.

New York: Combination of One Bite and Strict Liability

New York is a “mixed” state, which means that its dog bite law combines the one-bite rule with strict liability.  The one-bite rule means that a dog owner is essentially given a “free pass” on the first time a dog causes harm. Under this rule, a dog owner is not held responsible if the owner was not aware that the dog could cause harm or was not aware the dog caused harm in the past.  If it can be proven that the dog has a propensity to be violent or had attacked people in the past, then strict liability will apply, meaning, the dog owner will be strictly responsible for injuries and medical expenses – no excuses or defenses could apply.  To recover damages, a victim must show that the dog had a dangerous tendency to bite people and that the owner was aware of the dog's tendencies. In addition, under New York law, a dog owner whose dog causes injuries could be subject to criminal penalties like a $3,000 fine or up to 90 days in jail.

New Jersey: Strict Liability

New Jersey's dog bite law is more strict, and easier to apply, than New York's law. New Jersey dog bite law imposes “strict liability” on the dog's owner for any injuries that occur as a result of a dog attack. Strict liability means that a victim does not have to prove a dog owner was negligent or careless, does not have to prove the dog owner had intent to harm, and does not (unlike New York) have to prove the dog previously bit someone or had a known propensity to be violent. In New Jersey, for the most part, if a dog bites someone, the dog owner is automatically liable, no questions asked. Even if the owner took reasonable precautions to restrain the dog or protect or warn others, the dog owner is responsible.

All that needs to be established is that the bite took place. If you have questions about which rules apply to your situation, always speak directly with a personal injury lawyer.

How to Establish Liability and Negligence in a Dog Bite Case

Establishing liability in a dog bite case is different in New Jersey than New York.  In New Jersey, because it is a strict liability state, all that is needed is to prove that the dog bit or attacked the victim.  To do this, you should:

  1. Gather information, like the dog owner's name, address, driver's license, homeowner's insurance, etc.
  2. Take photos and video if possible, and gather whatever evidence you can.
  3. Get the name and contact information of any witnesses who can testify they observed the dog attack the victim.
  4. Make sure to call the police so that a police report is written up by the local police department. You may also want to call the local animal control agency to do an investigation.
  5. Keep a record of your injuries, and take photos of any bite marks or scars.

In New York, because it is a mixed state that also applies the one-bite rule, it is a little more difficult to prove liability. In addition to the above-referenced points that apply for New Jersey, in a New York dog bite case you will have to get evidence that the dog had previously bitten or even growled at people, that the dog had a known propensity to be violent, and that the owner was aware of or should have been aware of this. You may also want to show that the dog owner acted carelessly by, for example, not leasing the dog or keeping the dog in a secure enclosure.

Difference 2. Statute of Limitations

Both states, like all U.S. states, have a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a legal deadline by which you have to file your dog bite or attack claim in court. If you miss this deadline, then you no longer possess the legal right to file a claim and will not be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Here are the differences between New York and New Jersey's statutes of limitations:

It is also worth noting that some cases will need to follow additional, different notification deadlines. These deadlines are much shorter and give you days or weeks, not years, to file paperwork. For example, if a public entity or township or state is the negligent party, then you likely need to file a notice of a tort claim within 90 days of the injury.

In rare circumstances, injury victims can toll the statute of limitations or extend the deadline. For example, in New Jersey, if a child is injured, the clock on the statute of limitations does not begin to start until the child turn 18 years of age. Then, the victim will have two (2) years after turning 18 years old to file a lawsuit.  You will need to get the opinion of an experienced injury attorney to determine if you still have time. Filing your case after the statute of limitations will result in a claim denial or dismissal in either state.

Protect Your Case After a Dog Bite or Attack

If a dog bite occurs in New York or New Jersey and causes enough injury to warrant legal action, several factors could influence the outcome of the case. Figuring out what to do after a traumatic attack is challenging, but there are a few crucial steps that you can take to protect your case:

File a Police Report

You should report the dog bite incident to the local authorities, which may be the police or the animal control agency in your area. However, you may not know the full extent of the injury right away.

For more information about handling the details, check out our article, “Dog Bites: What You Should Do After an Attack.”

Please do not speak to any insurance companies about your case. Insurance companies will attempt to settle the case for peanuts and cheat you out of the full and fair compensation to which you are entitled.

For example, our firm took on a dog bite case after the victim had already spoken with the insurance company and even received a monetary offer from the insurance company.  But after our involvement and representation, we obtained a settlement for the victim that was 10 times the amount of money the insurance company offered the victim without an attorney involved.  This is one of many reasons why we suggest speaking with an injury attorney as soon as possible.

Speak with a Dog Attack Injury Lawyer

Speak with a dog attack injury lawyer in New York or New Jersey today. Not only does your case follow strict deadlines, but legal representation will help you negotiate with the insurance company or win your case in court.

Get Legal Help from Hunt & Associates, LLC

If a dog or animal attacked you or a family member, contact Hunt & Associates, LLC to learn more about your legal rights. We handle cases on a contingency fee basis, so we do not get paid until you win your case. Schedule a Free no-obligation Consultation now by calling 866-456-HUNT or message our legal team here.

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About the Author

James Hunt

Jim Hunt, the founder of Hunt & Associates, is a former Big Law attorney who trained at one of the biggest and most prestigious law firms in the world. He now uses that unique experience and training to help his injured clients fight for justice against “the big guys,” i...


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