Dog Bites: Who Pays the Damages?
Every year, more than 4.5 million people suffer from a dog bite. 20% of these bites require medical attention, and unfortunately, the largest numbers of severe bites affect children.
When you or a loved one suffers from an animal bite, who pays the damages? What legalities may they face?
Sometimes, who pays from a legal claim could depend on the specific situation at hand. One of the following sources may pay for the injury sustained:
- Homeowner’s insurance: In 2012, there were about 16,500 homeowner’s insurance claims involving dog bites. This is due to the fact that this type of insurance can cover liabilities that occur on the owner’s property. The average amount of liability coverage in homeowner policies is typically between $100,000 and $300,000.
- Car insurance: Both automobile and homeowner’s insurance policies may cover an animal bite that occurred in a car.
- Animal insurance: Some specialty insurance companies provide insurance for pet owners. However, if you have a “repeat offender” pet (one that has bitten more than once), there is often no choice but to look for coverage from an insurance company that specializes in animal coverage specifically.
- No insurance: If the owner does not have any insurance to cover animal bites, you are still very much entitled to bring a legal claim against the owner to recover damages. It is rightful to keep in mind that, if the person responsible for your injury does not pay your medical bills and compensate you for your lost income, you will bear those losses alone! (1)
Where Does New Jersey Law Come Into Play?
New Jersey is known as a strict liability state. This means that it operates under what is commonly called a “dog-bite statute,” and the owner of the dog will be liable for injuries, regardless of fault. The victim also does not have to prove that the dog owner did something wrong in order to prove the dog owner is liable. Title 4, Chapter 19 of the New Jersey Statutes states that the owner is liable for bites that occur while the victim is on or in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner – regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s viciousness.
This is slightly different from other states and their “one-bite rule.” Under this rule applied to many states, a dog’s owner is liable for the injuries the dog causes only if the owner knew or had reason to know that the dog was likely to cause a person injury. This means, that if your dog tries to bite somebody, from that moment on you are to know that the dog is dangerous and you will be held liable if they bite again. (2)
In New Jersey, it is very important to remember that the owner is liable for the dog’s actions regardless of the dog’s peaceful history or the circumstances surrounding the bite. The statute protects victims to the fullest extent. And, in order to prove liability, a plaintiff only has to prove that the defendant owned the dog, the dog bit the plaintiff, and the plaintiff was in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property.
Do I Have a Case?
At MDL, your legal team can pursue several different types of damages in a dog bite lawsuit. This could include lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, or even wrongful death. How much you can win depends upon the case. Under New Jersey Law, there isn’t a limit on compensatory damages. This means that, if you can back up your case with evidence, you are entitled to full compensation for your current and future medical expenses, any lost income as a result of the dog bite, and the cost of pain and suffering. You can contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi P.C.today for a free consultation. We are looking forward to working with you.