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New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule

The New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule: What It Means for You

Are you aware of the legal intricacies surrounding dog bites in New Jersey? The New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule is a crucial aspect of our state’s legal landscape. In simple terms, this rule holds dog owners accountable when their pets bite someone, regardless of the dog’s prior behavior or the owner’s knowledge of it. 

This means that if you’ve been bitten by a dog in New Jersey, you may have legal recourse to seek compensation for your injuries.

Quick Summary

Below is an overview of the key points of this blog post article.

  • New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule holds dog owners responsible for dog bites, regardless of prior knowledge, on public or legally present private property, with a two-year statute of limitations.
  • Non-bite injuries can also lead to compensation claims if the owner’s negligence is proven or if the dangerous habits of the dog result in harm.
  • Landlords may share liability in dog bite cases if they allow dangerous animals on their property without warning tenants or workers.
  • Elements of the New Jersey dog bite statute include ownership, legal presence, and the bite itself.
  • In New Jersey dog bite cases, defenses encompass trespassing, non-bite injuries, and cases with a non-owner defendant; without strict liability, negligence claims involve shared responsibility, allowing victim damages only if less at fault than the owner, allocated based on respective fault percentages.
  • Parents may be liable for children’s actions in dog bite incidents.
  • Victims should protect their legal rights by documenting evidence, seeking medical attention, and contacting an attorney.
  • Strict liability and negligence laws govern dog bite claims, with strict liability requiring less proof.
  • Compensation can be awarded for non-bite injuries in New Jersey, even if the skin is not broken.

What is the New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule?

Much like many other U.S. states, New Jersey has a “strict liability” law concerning dog bites. This law holds a dog’s owner responsible in a civil lawsuit if their dog bites someone, whether it occurred on public property or private property with the victim’s legal presence. 

Importantly, the owner’s prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness is irrelevant in this context. If a person gets bitten, the owner could be held liable for all resulting injuries, even if they occurred due to the dog jumping on or attacking the victim in different ways. 

It’s essential to note that New Jersey’s statute of limitations requires bite victims to initiate a lawsuit within two years of the incident.

When Do Dog Owners Be Held Liable for Non-Bite Injuries?

Dogs can cause harm to people in ways other than biting, such as knocking someone down or causing accidents while chasing vehicles like motorcycles. In these specific situations, the strict liability law may not be applicable. 

However, individuals who have suffered injuries due to a dog’s actions without being bitten may still have the opportunity to seek compensation. To do so, they must provide evidence to demonstrate one of the following:

Owner Negligence

The owner may bear responsibility for injuries other than bites if the victim can establish that:

  • The owner had an obligation to exercise reasonable care in controlling the dog’s actions.
  • The owner did not fulfill this obligation, which is often referred to as “breaching” it in legal terms.
  • Due to this failure, the dog ended up causing harm to the injured individual.

As an illustration, an owner might be deemed negligent if they allow their dog to wander freely without a leash, leading to the dog approaching someone and causing them to fall over.

Dangerous Habits

The owner can also be held accountable for injuries that are not caused by biting if:

  • They are aware of their pet’s potentially hazardous behaviors.
  • Someone gets injured as a result of those behaviors.

Much like the New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule discussed earlier, this rule operates under strict liability. When it comes into play, an injured party can seek compensation without the need to demonstrate that their injuries directly resulted from the owner’s negligence.

These risky behaviors encompass not only violent or aggressive actions, such as attempting to attack strangers but also include seemingly playful or friendly tendencies. For instance, if a dog habitually jumps on people out of excitement, the owner can still be held strictly liable.

It’s essential to note that individuals who have sustained non-bite injuries are bound by the same statute of limitations as bite victims, requiring them to initiate any legal proceedings within two years of the incident.

What is the Liability of a Landlord?

In cases involving dog attacks in New Jersey, it’s important to note that the owner of the animal isn’t the sole party that could be held responsible. Other parties, such as landlords or landowners, may also share in the responsibility. 

For instance, if a landlord allows a tenant to keep a dangerous animal on the property without informing other residents, they could be held partially liable for the resulting damages. Likewise, if a building owner hires someone to work on or within the premises, they have a duty to ensure a safe environment. 

This includes controlling potentially aggressive animals or at the very least, warning the worker about their presence. By properly disclosing the existence of a hazardous animal, the landlord can mitigate their liability in such situations.

What Are the Elements of the New Jersey Dog Bite Statute?

To secure a favorable outcome for the victim in a dog bite case, it is essential to establish the following key factors:

  • The defendant’s ownership of the dog in question must be proven.
  • It must be established that the plaintiff was either in a public place or legally present in a private location, including the defendant’s property.
  • It should be demonstrated that the dog indeed bit the plaintiff while in such a location.

A person is considered lawfully present on private property when they have received a clear invitation from the property owner, either expressed or implied. Additionally, being engaged in a legal obligation, such as a mail carrier delivering mail, also qualifies as a lawful presence on the property.

What Are the Defenses and Comparative Negligence in a New Jersey Dog Bite Case?

Certain circumstances may exempt the dog owner from the typical obligation to compensate the bite victim. These situations encompass instances when:

  • The injured party is trespassing on the dog owner’s premises.
  • The injuries sustained by the victim do not result from a bite.
  • The individual being sued is not the actual owner of the dog in question.

In cases where a victim doesn’t fall under the protection of the New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule, there is a potential avenue for recovery through a negligence claim. In scenarios where the victim shares some responsibility for the dog bite, special consideration is given. 

In such instances, the victim can only seek damages from the owner if their level of fault is less than that of the owner. The allocation of damages will then be determined based on the respective percentages of fault attributed to both the victim and the dog owner. This assessment takes into account the overall circumstances surrounding the dog bite incident.

What is the Possible Liability of Children and Parents in a Dog Bite Case?

In certain situations, parents of children may be held accountable for their child’s negligent actions that played a role in a dog bite incident. Typically, parents will only be deemed responsible for the actions of young children if their lack of supervision was exceptionally negligent, or if they directly instructed the child to engage in behavior that led to the bite. 

Establishing liability for a child under the age of seven due to their negligence is generally challenging, but older children may face liability for their actions in such cases.

How Can I Protect My Legal Rights After a Dog Bite in New Jersey?

New Jersey boasts some of the nation’s strictest dog bite regulations. Nevertheless, victims must take proactive measures to safeguard their rights if they intend to seek compensation under these laws. Failure to adequately document evidence or file a timely complaint against the dog’s owner can jeopardize a victim’s chances of securing a favorable judgment. 

In this regard, the following practical steps should be taken by the victim as a first course of action:

  • Evaluate the extent of the injuries and necessary actions.
  • Depending on the severity of the injury, promptly seek medical attention.

Then, victims should take these best practices steps:

  • Obtain the dog owner’s name.
  • Request information about the owner’s insurance company, as lawyers handle contested insurance claims effectively.
  • Record the dog’s name and license number.
  • Collect the names of any witnesses.
  • Capture photos and videos of the location where the dog bite occurred.
  • Document the injuries through photos and videos, even if they are graphic.
  • File a dog bite report with the appropriate authorities.
  • Reach out to a dog bite attorney without delay.
  • Maintain a journal using a notebook or cell phone to chronicle the details of the dog bite incident. Include information on how it happened, a list of injuries, any symptoms or pain, physical and mental reactions, and any other pertinent details that may be of interest to the attorney. Ensure the journal is regularly updated each week.

What is the Difference Between Strict Liability and Negligence Law in Dog Bite Claims?

Many individuals who have suffered personal injuries face a significant challenge in meeting the criteria necessary to seek financial compensation. Typically, accident victims must demonstrate negligence on the part of the responsible party, which entails establishing:

  • A responsibility to exercise caution was present (the responsible party was obligated to ensure the safety of others).
  • The responsible party failed in this duty by behaving negligently.
  • This particular breach of duty directly led to the injury.
  • As a consequence of the injury, the victim incurred damages.

In cases of dog attacks that don’t involve actual bites, they typically fall under the negligence standard. In contrast, to seek compensation in a dog bite case under strict liability, the victim simply needs to demonstrate:

  • The defendant was the dog’s owner.
  • The dog inflicted a bite on the victim.
  • The victim was legally present on the property, whether it was public or private.

In New Jersey, courts have gone as far as granting compensation to a victim, even if the dog bite didn’t physically break the skin but still resulted in injuries. It’s important to note that the strict liability standard is applicable in dog bite cases, irrespective of whether the dog has a history of previous bites.

Your Trusted Legal Advocates for Dog Bite Cases in New Jersey

Navigating the complexities of the New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule can be a daunting task, especially when you’re dealing with the aftermath of a dog bite incident. However, you don’t have to face this legal challenge alone. At Kreizer Law, we help individuals like you understand their rights and seek the compensation they deserve under this rule. 

Our trusted team of personal injury lawyers is well-versed in New Jersey’s laws regarding dog bites and strict liability, and we have a track record of successfully representing our clients in similar cases. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a dog bite in New Jersey, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 

Our dedicated legal professionals are here to guide you through the process, provide the right legal advice, and fight for your rights. Contact Kreizer Law today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward securing the compensation you deserve under the New Jersey Strict Liability Dog Bite Rule. 

We can also assist you with Intersection Accidents, Rear-End Collisions, Head-On Collisions, Drunk Driving Accidents, U-Turn Accidents, Home Accidents, and Motorcycle Accidents. Your well-being is our priority, and we are committed to helping you through this challenging time.

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