Understanding Your Rights after a Canine Attack
While it’s more often the case that a dog is man’s best friend, there are situations, where a dog has been trained to be aggressive, has been mistreated, or has not been properly socialized, where a dog can cause serious injury or even death. What are your rights in New Jersey when you have been the victim of an unprovoked attack or mauling by a dog?
New Jersey’s “Strict Liability” Dog Bite Statute
Like many states, New Jersey has enacted a written law that establishes “strict liability” for injuries suffered as a result of a dog bite. Strict liability means that an injured person does not have to show negligence by a pet owner, as is customarily required in other types of personal injury claims.
Under personal injury law, as it has evolved over centuries, most personal injury claims are based on fault or negligence. To recover under a theory of negligence, you must show that the person who caused the accident and injury did not act reasonably. With a dog bite in New Jersey, that is not required. Accordingly, you can recover compensation from the owner of a dog (after being bitten or attacked), even if the owner took reasonable measures to warn you of the potential danger or to prevent an attack from happening. That holds true if the victim is in a private place or lawfully in a public place.
New Jersey does not have a “free first bite” law, as some other states do. In New Jersey, a dog’s owner will be responsible the first time a dog bites someone—there’s no need to show that the owner had knowledge or evidence of prior viciousness or attacks.
It is important to understand that the law only applies to injuries caused by dog bites. Other injuries, such as those caused by being knocked down by a big dog, still require a showing of negligence.
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