Recovering Compensation for Dog Attack Victims

New York's dog bite statute does not fully adhere to the one-bite rule or strict liability, but rather a mixture of both. According to the statute, dog owners are strictly liable primarily for medical and veterinary costs in the case of a dog attack. However, a dog owner may be held liable for other damages only if the victim can prove that the dog owner knew before the attack that his or her dog was dangerous, but did not take the proper precautionary measures to prevent an attack from occurring.

If you were injured in a dog attack, you may be able to pursue compensation in a personal injury claim against the owner. However, you must fulfill specific criteria under New York state law to have a viable claim. Your best option is to contact Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, to discuss your case in a free case evaluation. With over 50 years of experience, our New York dog bite lawyers can investigate and determine who you should hold accountable for your trauma. To get started, call our office at (212) 986-7353.

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barking dogs

Each year in the United States, there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites. - CDC

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Dogs were once wild animals, and despite years of domestication, some still follow their animal instincts and lash out at “strangers” who enter their territory. A dog may bite its victim with powerful jaws, or just knock them against the ground by jumping on them.

These attacks can be incredibly dangerous for children, the elderly, and the disabled, who often suffer catastrophic injuries in dog attacks. Children may not know how to defend themselves or get away, and their size also puts them at risk of suffering serious facial trauma. The elderly are more at risk of being knocked over and suffering trauma to the head, neck, and back, as well as developing serious infections afterward. Disabled individuals suffer from the same dangers, especially if they are immunocompromised.

Oftentimes, victims of dog attacks must deal with:

Even in seemingly minor cases, a dog owner should provide compensation for the victim’s injuries. Dog owners have a duty to control their pets and prevent attacks. If you suffered serious trauma in a dog attack, you may be able to recover compensation in a personal injury claim under New York state law.

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When Can You File a Dog Bite Claim in New York?

New York State’s laws regarding dog bites are rather complex. While some states follow a “one-bite rule” or “strict liability,” New York uses a combination of the two. New York has a strict three-year statute of limitations for dog bite claims, and if you fail to file a claim or lawsuit within that time period, you may lose your right to recover compensation.

Victims of dog bites may recover:

  • Compensation for medical expenses related to the attack even if the owner was not aware that the dog was dangerous; and/or
  • Compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and disabilities BUT ONLY IF the owner was aware that the dog was dangerous and could injure someone.

Recovering both types of damages in a dog bite claim requires showing that the dog had a history of violence, which is referred to as “vicious propensity.” If a dog bit someone in the past, that would fulfill this requirement, but there are other situations where it may apply.

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How to Prove Vicious Propensity

According to New York's Agriculture & Markets Law, a dog is considered dangerous if it attacks and injures or kills a person or animal "without justification" and "behaves in a manner which a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death." The owner of a dangerous dog that attacked a person, service dog, guide dog, or hearing dog may also be subject to a fine, the amount of which depends on whether the victim was a person or animal, the severity of the injury, and whether the dog has been given "dangerous" status in the past.

Proving vicious propensity requires an in-depth investigation into the dog’s background to determine if the owner was aware that it had a history of violence. All dog bites must be reported to the New York City Department of Health (DOH), which may have records showing that the dog has bitten other victims, which can support your claim. In addition, if you can show that the dog was a threat to others, such as by lunging or snapping at strangers without provocation, then you may be able to prove vicious propensity.

However, it is important to understand that the application of the legal concept of vicious propensity is still being figured out as its parameters are being set according to the rulings made in specific dog attack cases. Thus far, it has been determined that "Beware of Dog" signs cannot act as sufficient evidence of an owner's knowledge of his or her dog's vicious propensities. Also, if a dog was known to bark at people while being chained, that alone is not conclusive evidence that the dog showed vicious propensities.

If the victim provoked the attack in any way, then the dog may be exempt from "dangerous" status. Additionally, police dogs are immune to "dangerous" status during operations. However, the nature and severity of the attack itself can be used to determine whether a dog showed vicious propensities, and so can the severity of the dog's prior attacks.

To determine if you can recover full compensation under New York’s vicious propensity laws, you will need to work with an experienced attorney.

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Can a Landlord Be Held Liable for a Dog Attack in New York?

In order to hold a landlord liable for an attack made by a tenant's dog, the victim must prove that the landlord had knowledge of the dog's presence and its vicious propensity at the time of the initial leasing. A landlord can even be held liable for a dog attack that took place off premises if he or she knew the danger the dog posed to people outside of the property yet took no action to prevent an attack from happening.

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What Makes a Dog Dangerous?

According to New York's Agriculture & Markets Law, a dog is considered dangerous if it attacks and injures or kills a person or animal "without justification" and "behaves in a manner which a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death." If the victim provoked the attack in any way, then the dog may be exempt from "dangerous" status. Additionally, police dogs are immune to "dangerous" status during operations.

The owner of a dangerous dog that attacked a person, service dog, guide dog, or hearing dog may be subject to a fine, the amount of which depends on whether the victim was a person or animal, the severity of the injury, and whether the dog has been given "dangerous" status in the past.

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NY Dog Bite Attorneys Fighting Hard for Your Recovery

The pain and trauma that follows a dog attack can be immense. A victim may be left with both physical and mental scars, making recovery seem like a far off prospect. However, a New York personal injury lawyer can help victims get the compensation they need to pay for the best available treatment that'll help them eventually regain a life of normalcy.

At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, we have over 50 years of experience representing injured victims throughout New York and have achieved significant results in dog bite cases. We can review the circumstances of your attack in a free consultation and determine the best route to compensation for you. Our attorneys are here to help anyone with their injury claim needs. Call us at (212) 986-7353 for a free case evaluation.

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Additional Information

Our Dog Bite Case Results

$225,000 - Attacked by a Vicious Rottweiler

Our client, a Staten Island Russian immigrant, was attacked by a vicious Rottweiler outside of his home.

WRSH LLP

$200,000 - Teenaged Girl Bit by Pitbull

Thomas Pardo, Associate at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, settled a case for a 13-year-old girl bit by a Pitbull.

Thomas Pardo

$175,000 - Dog Bite Victim New York

William Hepner obtained a $175,000.00 recovery for a dog bite victim in her late 20's after jury selection.

William Hepner

Click here to see more NY Dog Bite Verdicts & Settlements