I was running in a park when a loose dog side-swiped me and caused me to break my wrist. Can I get compensation from the owner?

Every state handles liability for pets differently. Luckily for you, if you live in New Jersey, the Garden State has very strict rules when it comes to pets who cause harm to others.

In certain states, you can escape liability for injuries caused by your dog if it was your dog’s first incident or if the dog has no history of being dangerous. However, New Jersey operates under a strict liability statute when it comes to dog bites. Strict liability means that the dog’s owner is liable for any injuries caused by a dog bite (in the vast majority of cases)—even for the very first incident.

There are three general exceptions to the strict liability statute:

  • Trespassing: If someone enters a property without permission and is injured by the dog living there, the owner can often avoid liability for the injuries because the injured person was trespassing.  
  • Veterinarian: If the person injured is a veterinarian treating the dog, the owner typically is not liable for those injuries.
  • Provocation: If someone provokes the dog, such as by hitting it, the owner is generally not liable for injuries

In the case mentioned above, the potential plaintiff was in a public place (a park) when the dog came out of nowhere, causing an injury. So long as the person was not provoking the dog (which would be very difficult if the interaction was that brief), he or she has grounds for a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner.

In order to bring a successful dog bite claim in New Jersey, the injured person must prove the following things:

  • He or she was attacked/injured by the dog
  • The defendant is the owner of the dog
  • The injured person did not provoke the dog in any way
  • The injured person was acting peaceably somewhere that he or she had the right to be (i.e. not trespassing)

The New Jersey dog bite statute does not apply to all pet-related injuries, but the law typically allows the injured person to sue the owner under the normal personal injury procedure; as the dog’s owner, he or she takes responsibility for the animal’s actions, including those that cause injury to a third party.

More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the U.S. The largest number of severe bites affect children and senior citizens, and approximately 20 percent of dog bites require medical attention. Click here for more information about dog bites and New Jersey law.