Dog bites are an unfortunate part of American life, with more than 4.5 million people suffering a bite every year. Twenty percent of dog bites require medical attention, and the largest number of severe bites affect children. Children and senior citizens are the most common victims of dog bites, and childrens’ low stature and low awareness put them at the greatest risk.
The problem of dog bites is not one that will disappear soon, with nearly 70 million dogs in homes across the country. Some dog bites do not break the skin or require medical treatment, but a large number of bites can cause infection and serious medical concerns.
If you or your child has suffered from a dog bite, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi to explore your options and recover your losses.
What Does New Jersey Law Say About Dog Bites?
Dog bites fall under premises liability, meaning that the owner of a property is liable for injuries sustained on the property. If you are invited into someone’s home and his or her dog bites you, the homeowner is the one responsible for the injuries.
New Jersey is a strict liability state, operating under what is commonly called a “dog-bite statute.” Strict liability means that the dog owner is liable for injuries, regardless of fault; the victim 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.
Some states operate under the “one-bite rule,” meaning a dog owner is liable only if he or she knew (or had reason to know) that the dog was likely to bite. In those states, owners can avoid liability by proving the victim provoked the dog or knew the risks of being around the dog—but in New Jersey, the owner is liable for the dog’s actions regardless of the dog’s peaceful history or the circumstances of the bite.
The New Jersey dog-bite statute protects victims to the fullest extent. Under the one-bite rule, dogs are allowed to bite one person before they are considered “vicious.” Strict liability statutes, like the one in New Jersey, do not allow for one “free bite”—no matter how the dog has acted previously, the owner will be liable for injuries.
In order to prove liability, a plaintiff only has to prove:
- The defendant owned the dog
- The dog bit the plaintiff
- The plaintiff was in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property
Why Sue Over a Dog Bite?
Some dog bites are very mild and do not require medical attention, but even bites that do not break the skin can crush or bruise soft tissues underneath. More serious bites can cause serious medical complications, including internal damage and infections. Dogs have very powerful jaws and teeth, which can tear skin and muscles or crush tissue. If a victim is bitten on the chest, there is a risk that the bite could penetrate the chest wall and collapse a lung. If bitten in certain other areas, there is serious risk to internal organs.
Dog mouths are teeming with bacteria, and bites that break the skin can introduce bacteria to the victim’s body. Medical risks include:
- Puncture wounds and scars
- Broken bones
- Localized abscesses: a painful mass that develops when bacteria is left untreated
- Generalized cellulitis: a tissue infection from untreated bacteria
- Septic arthritis: joint infections that develop from a penetrating bite wound
- Osteomyelitis: infection of the bone
- Pyothorax: pus in the chest cavity that develops from bites in the chest region
- Septic peritonitis: pus in the abdominal cavity
- Rabies: a viral disease that infects the central nervous system and brain
Treating these medical conditions is costly and time-consuming, and often the best way to recover these losses is to file a personal injury suit. Contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi to explore your options in terms of a dog bite lawsuit.
What Should You Expect During a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
After a dog bite incident, it is important to move quickly and collect the appropriate documents. An experienced personal injury lawyer can investigate the incident and collect the right evidence, including witness testimony, proof of ownership, and police reports (if applicable).
In the state of New Jersey, personal injury lawsuits must be filed within two years of the incident in question.
Your legal team can pursue several types of damages in a dog bite lawsuit, including:
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
How Much Can You Win in a Dog Bite Case?
Under New Jersey law, there is no limit on compensatory damages. That means, as long as 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.
Where Do I Start?
Contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi for a free and confidential consultation regarding your case. There are no fees until your case is won, and you can start the process of recovering your losses. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi are considered among the top personal injury lawyers in the state, and they have achieved significant verdicts and settlements for their clients.
How Can You Avoid Dog Bites?
Dogs can be unpredictable and there is no surefire way to ensure you will not be bitten. However, there are certain precautions you can take to minimize the risk of being bitten:
- Stay close to children. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Teach children, toddlers in particular, to be careful around animals.
- Avoid running past dogs; it gives them a reason to be excited or aggressive.
- Avoid bothering a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
- Avoid reaching over or through a fence to pet a dog; this can be perceived as a threat to its territory.
- Remain calm if you are threatened by a dog. Never run, scream, or yell. Speak calmly and firmly, avoid eye contact, and either stay still or back away slowly.
Children are at the greatest risk when it comes to dog bites, so make sure your children know how to act around animals.