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October 2022 - When Man’s Best Friend Lashes Out

Dog bites

These days dogs accompany their owners wherever possible, attracting the attention of passersby along the way. As tempting as it may be to approach them, it’s important to remember dogs are animals driven by animal instincts which, under the right circumstances, can prove dangerous.

It’s reported that some 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. In 2020, there were more than 460 dog bite-related insurance claims filed in New Jersey alone, ranking the State 9th in the country for dog bites at that time. So, what recourse do you have when that seemingly friendly pooch you encounter suddenly bites you or a loved one?

New Jersey has a “strict liability” statute under which pet owners are legally liable when their dog bites someone. The dog need not have a history of aggression and the pet owner need not have reason to believe their dog would exhibit this behavior. What matters is that the incident occurred on public property or, if on private property, that the victim was there legally.

Dog bite victims can seek compensation for injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. New Jersey’s statute of limitations for filing such a lawsuit is two years from the date of the incident.

When the 'Strict Liability' Law Doesn't Apply

The law applies to dog bites and may cover other injuries suffered in that attack. However, injuries resulting from other dog actions, like knocking someone over or causing an accident by chasing a bike or vehicle, do not fall under the “strict liability” law. Victims of these injuries can seek compensation under a negligence claim whereby they must prove their injury occurred as the result of the dog owner’s carelessness or failure to control their dog.

Of course, the best recourse would be to avoid injury all together. While dogs may be man’s best friend, it’s important to remember that even the meekest dog can lash out when feeling threatened or scared. Always approach with caution and stay safe out there!


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