To protect you from Coronavirus, we are now offering a quick easy REMOTE intake process. Get our team of attorneys working on your case immediately without risk. HIDE
Dog bites are all too common, yet most people don’t know what to do when this emergency occurs. Getting medical attention is crucial for a serious dog bite. So is getting the compensation to pay for this care. You do this by pursuing a dog bite insurance claim.
For decades, we have been an advocate for dog bite victims across New Jersey. We understand the full array of effects a dog attack injury can have on your life.
With our help, you can regain that sense of normalcy of life before the bite – or at least, figure out how to make this “new normal” work for your family.
Serious dog bite injuries like yours warrant money damages. We’ll make sure you get every dollar you’re entitled to. Find out how much you could recover for a dog bite suit.
Most dog bite victims don’t get the money they deserve, but having a skilled attorney could change all that. You need a lawyer to help you understand who is responsible for paying your dog bite claim and ensure all of your losses are accounted for in an insurance settlement. Find out what our NJ dog bite lawyers will do for you – at no upfront cost.
Bitten by a dog you know? You might think you don’t have any legal options if the owner of the dog was a loved one, but that’s not true. Here’s what you need to know about insurance claims over a bite from a friend’s dog.
Our personal injury attorneys have practiced dog bite law for more than 25 years. When a dog attack has altered everything, you can count on us to make sure your family is made whole again.
Treating a severe dog bite wound can cost upwards of $70,000, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported. And the treatments themselves may not be the only financial setback you suffer as a result of this preventable injury.
That’s not some small amount that you can absorb. Your family can’t afford to come up with this massive amount of money for repairing the damage done by someone else’s dog – and, frankly, you shouldn’t have to. Under New Jersey law, victims of dog bites can recover money damages for their injuries.
A dog bite is a matter of negligence. The dog’s owner is legally responsible for controlling the animal. By not doing so, the owner of the dog was negligent.
With proper precautions on the part of the dog’s owner, dog bites are “largely preventable,” the American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association reported – particularly when young children are the victims.
New Jersey law allows for individuals who are harmed through the negligence of others to seek financial compensation. If you fail to exercise your legal rights, you may find your physical recovery limited by your financial resources to pay for treatment. And that will affect you for the rest of your life, especially if you have to deal with chronic pain, loss of function, disfigurement, and other long-term dog bite consequences.
Liability, or legal fault for an accident, typically falls on the owner of a dog that bites. However, depending on the circumstances of your bite, you may also have a case against any of the following parties:
Determining liability isn’t always clear-cut. What if the dog that bites you was visiting the property of another homeowner? What if the bite happened in a public place, like a park, or out on the street as you were walking or jogging?
Often, what deters dog bite victims from filing a claim is not knowing where to start. Our New Jersey dog bite lawyers can handle this for you. We’ll look at the full circumstances of your claim. By exploring every angle of potential dog bite liability, we can make sure your claim encompasses all of the parties who are responsible for your injury.
When a dog bite leaves you with debilitating injuries, someone has to pay for that damage it has caused you. New Jersey state law holds dog owners legally responsible for the injuries they cause, and homeowner’s insurance policies typically cover the financial consequences.
The matter of who pays out a dog bite settlement is often a source of concern for the victim.
Worrying about who’s going to pay your claim is the last thing you need right now. Let our personal injury lawyers ease your mind.
The individual who owns the dog typically doesn’t pay a dog bite settlement. Instead, that payout comes from an insurance company. Keep in mind, too, that the insurer has already been paid to provide coverage for the possibility of claims arising out of a dog bite or attack.
Some of the different types of insurance that may provide coverage for a dog bite claim include:
If you think there’s no insurance policy available to cover your dog bite injury, a free consultation with an attorney can be eye-opening. We’ll leave no stone unturned as we look for potential sources of coverage so that you can get the money you need to get better.
The purpose of insurance is to pay for covered events. That’s why policyholders purchase this coverage in the first place: to pay for any accidents, injuries, and damages for which the policyholder could be found liable.
Insurance coverage for dog bite injuries is important, because trying to get compensation from the owner personally would be problematic for a couple of reasons:
Insurance for a dog bite eliminates these issues.
The only thing you do have to worry about is getting the insurance company to treat you fairly. That’s where we come in.
Homeowners insurance and other liability insurance policies are typically responsible for covering the damages that stem from dog bites and attacks. Even though the insurance company created a contract with the homeowner, don’t expect the insurer to be eager to pay what it owes. Insurers don’t willingly hand out large sums of money to victims.
This is the reason it’s essential that you have someone on your side with experience handling dog bite cases and insider knowledge of how insurance companies operate.
If you’re just making a claim on a dog bite insurance policy, rather than trying to sue the individual dog owner personally, you may wonder if a lawyer is really necessary. It’s important to understand something about the way the insurance industry works: the insurance company isn’t on your side, and it’s not going to be eager to pay your claim.
Insurance companies are businesses. They make their money by collecting premiums from policyholders, investing that money to make a profit, and – most importantly – keeping that money.
Paying out claims like yours may be the reason the policyholder purchased the insurance coverage in the first place, but to the insurer, your claim is nothing more than a threat to their bottom line. Denying claims outright, or delaying payments and decreasing payouts to less than you deserve, is one way the insurance industry remains profitable.
Maybe that’s why our original survey of Americans across age groups, genders, geographical regions, and income levels illustrated these disturbing realities of how the insurance industry is viewed in the United States:
To get the money you’re entitled to, there’s no question. You need a New Jersey dog bite lawyer. Otherwise, you’re likely to join that nearly 30 percent of Americans who have been taken advantage of by an insurance company, either getting less than you deserve for your claim or walking away with nothing at all.
When our NJ dog bite lawyers represent you, we’ll handle every aspect of your insurance claim. Not only will you have the benefit of our decades of professional experience at every step of the lawsuit process – you also won’t have to worry about litigation when you should be focusing your time and energy on getting better.
Here’s just a snapshot of what our personal injury attorneys will do for your dog bite claim:
Expert witnesses in a dog bite claim may include veterinarians, canine training and behavior experts, aggressive dog rehabilitation experts, forensic pathologists and medical doctors like general surgeons, plastic surgeons and neurologists. Which types of expert witnesses your claim requires depends on the unique facts of the attack and the harm it has caused you.
The percentage of dog bite victims who get compensated is shockingly small. Only 17,802 dog bite claims were paid across the United States in 2019, the Insurance Information Institute reported.
To put it simply, you need an attorney to get the dog bite compensation you deserve. And with no-win, no-fee legal representation, there’s no risk to hiring a lawyer.
Does an Adult Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite Claim?
Dog bites disproportionately affect children. But that doesn’t mean adults don’t suffer severe dog bite injuries.
Although upwards of 50 percent of dog bite victims are children, that still leaves a lot of adult dog bite victims. Senior citizens, for example, are particularly prone to dog bite injuries. And around 12 percent of adult dog bite victims – still in the range of tens or hundreds of thousands of adults each year – require medical attention for their severe injuries from a dog attack.
If you want to recover from the negligent owner for the dog bite that injured you, then you need an attorney, regardless of your age at the time of the bite. Our law offices represent both children and adults who were bitten by dogs all across New Jersey. We have more than 25 years of experience handling dog bite claims involving both minors and adults, so we understand the nuances involved in handling each type of case.
To outsiders, it may seem that the crisis is over. But dog bite victims know better.
The physical and emotional harm you’ve been through continue to make every day a struggle. The medical bills and the income you’ve lost while out of work make your financial situation one more thing to worry about, as if you didn’t have enough on your plate.
Over the decades we have spent advocating for dog bite victims, we’ve seen firsthand how difficult life can be after the attack and how many ways an injury can change your life. We get it. And we’ll do our part to help you get better in every possible way. That’s the promise we make every one of our clients.
Some dog bite scars can be minimized with a procedure known as scar revision. Laser treatments, topical medications, chemical peels, injectable fillers, microneedling and dermabrasion procedures are all other options that can help improve the appearance of dog bite scars – and an insurance settlement can help you pay for these treatments that, while expensive, can help make you look and feel more like you again.
A dog bite on the ankle, foot, or leg may make it difficult to get around normally. Bites to the arm may limit your range of motion, while a dog bite to the hand may seriously impair the fine motor skills you need for daily life and even basic self-care activities. Some dog bite victims develop nerve damage that may leave them with pain, numbness, or immobility in the part of the body that was bitten. A bite to the eye can cause permanent vision impairments.
Your functional losses are a big deal. They’re the things you can no longer do. They strip away your independence and autonomy. When they prevent you from doing the things that mattered to you before the dog bite, you may feel that you’re losing a sense of self to this injury.
For some dog bite victims, the changes they see when they look in the mirror only make that sense of loss more pronounced. A dog bite wound can be disfiguring. When the first thing people see when they look at you are scars from one of the worst moments of your life, it can change how you think about yourself and how you feel about socializing with others. You don’t have to be vain to find the disfigurement caused by a dog bite deeply troubling.
Don’t discount the impact of a crisis like a serious dog bite on your mental health and emotional well-being. A dog bite’s emotional effects can be just as debilitating as your physical injuries.
Emotional effects of dog bites can be just as debilitating as physical injuries
The reality is that you were attacked.
It’s not unusual for survivors of vicious dog bites to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), just as a survivor of a violent crime or a brutal war zone might. It’s very possible, even, that you feared for your life or the life of those around you at the time of the bite.
Some possible symptoms that could indicate PTSD from a dog bite include:
PTSD is a very real condition. Developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of a horrific dog bite is completely understandable. You’ve been through a real trauma, and trauma can actually “rewire” the way the brain works, Psychology Today reported.
This isn’t something that will go away on its own.
Evidence-based psychotherapy treatments like EMDR can help you process your trauma so that your mental and emotional healing can commence. Don’t give up hope of things ever feeling “normal” again. Instead, make it happen by finding a qualified mental health professional with experience in treating trauma.
Your dog bite attorney can seek money damages that will compensate you for this harm and the costs of mental and behavioral health treatment. Don’t be embarrassed to admit that the dog bite has impacted you emotionally. We’re here to help you get your life back on track – emotionally as well as physically and financially.
There are other emotional effects that commonly plague dog bite survivors. If you’re experiencing any of the following, it’s important that you speak to a doctor so that you can get help for these manageable issues:
Although things are difficult right now, please know that your feelings are normal and valid after the ordeal you have been through. But just because they are normal doesn’t mean you should have to suffer with them. With help that may include counseling, psychotherapy treatments, and medications, you can regain control of your life.
Making ends meet is far from easy, particularly in New Jersey, where the cost of living is among the highest in the nation, according to CNBC.
Many families live paycheck to paycheck as it is – and it’s often still not enough, the Federal Reserve reported. In 2019, almost 30 percent of Americans either did not have the money to afford their regular monthly bills or would be unable to do so if they got hit with a surprise expense of just $400.
A dog bite will most likely cost you thousands.
If your injury requires medical attention, you’re unlikely to walk away with a bill that’s less than $400. The average emergency room bill visit alone cost $1,389 as of 2019, according to USA TODAY.
That’s not counting the numerous other medical costs you’re likely to incur because of the dog bite, including:
And many dog bites aren’t just temporary injuries. If the bite causes some permanent damage, you may need further medical care in the future. Unless you’re able to get a settlement that fully covers your past and future medical expenses, you’ll be on the hook for these costs, too.
The medical bills aren’t the only way a bite can hurt you financially. When a dog bite injury keeps you out of work, you’re losing the income your family depended on.
How do you pay the bills without a paycheck coming in? How do you make the rent or mortgage payment and afford to put food on the table when you’re not even well enough to work right now?
At best, this injury will keep you out of work only for a relatively short term. Even then, you’re still looking at days, weeks, or longer with no income.
At worst, your injury may be so serious that it permanently keeps you from returning to your career.
Nerve damage to the fingers of your dominant hand may put an end to a career as a surgeon, a police officer, a music teacher, an athlete, or any number of other careers for which you have trained. Some injuries are severe enough that it makes it difficult to perform any physical task that requires a full range of motion or fine motor skills, which can severely limit your prospects in any other career, too.
You’re not the kind of person who’s looking for a lawsuit. But you can’t keep going like this. Something needs to change.
Getting a lawyer to represent you in a dog bite insurance claim is not the same thing as suing the dog’s owner personally. Although the owner will be named in the lawsuit, we’ll only seek money from the policyholder’s insurance company, never from the individual. That’s one less thing to worry about, especially if the owner of the dog was a friend, a family member, or a neighbor. Keep in mind, too, that most claims don’t go to trial, so a lawsuit doesn’t mean you’ll have to face the dog’s owner in court.
There are different paths you could take after a dog bite. You could opt not to do anything about it. You might try to work things out with the owner of the dog directly. You could potentially try to press criminal charges.
But we strongly recommend that all dog bite victims find out whether a civil lawsuit might be an option for them, because it offers the most direct benefits to people who have suffered harm in a dog bite.
The benefits of suing over a dog bite include:
If you’re still in the early aftermath of a dog bite, you might be wondering just how seriously you need to take this matter.
Maybe you stopped the bleeding and cleaned the dog bite wound, but you haven’t gotten it checked out yet and aren’t sure if you should.
Perhaps you’ve identified something worrying about the wound.
Whatever the case, you’re wondering if dog bites are more dangerous than you initially thought.
The answer is, yes, dog bites can be very dangerous. In fact, left untreated, they can become even more of a health risk.
Any time you have a concern over a dog bite injury, it is imperative that you get medical attention right away, because the issue could be far more dangerous than you think.
Symptoms that seem minor early on may indicate a major problem. By the time it becomes obvious how serious these symptoms are, the damage is already done. And that damage may be permanent.
Look at it this way – if it turns out that your injury wasn’t serious, the cost of an urgent care visit and the brief time it took to get checked out is a small price to pay for peace of mind. But if you don’t go to the doctor and the dog bite injury was more dangerous than you realized, it could change your life forever.
For some victims, dog bites aren’t just dangerous. They’re deadly.
Dog bite fatalities are relatively rare. Most years, the numbers of fatal dog bites in the United States are measured in the dozens, not the hundreds or thousands.
In 2018, for example, the number of dog bite-related fatalities across the U.S. was 36, according to nonprofit organization DogsBite.org. Statistically, this means that just 0.0008 percent of dog bites were deadly in 2018.
Over the 14-year period spanning from 2005 to 2018, dog bites killed a total of 471 Americans, DogsBite.org further reported.
Overall, your odds of dying from a dog bite are 1 in 112,400, Petpedia reported. That means you’re much more likely to die from a bee or hornet sting, a severe storm, gun violence, a motor vehicle accident, heart disease, cancer, or choking on your food than from a dog bite.
The fact that deaths due to dog bites are so rare is wonderful news. But that doesn’t change the reality that a few dozen preventable deaths are still too many.
At least 36 families mourned the death of a loved one, and countless individuals’ lives were impacted by these losses. What makes dog bite deaths even more heartbreaking is that, often, the victims are young children.
Every life lost to a dog bite is precious, and every family that is devastated by a dog bite fatality deserves to get justice.
If you lost a loved one to a dog bite, please know that we are here for you.
Sometimes, the right step to take after a loved one has been killed is to speak to an attorney. There are many reasons why a bereaved family might choose to move forward with a wrongful death lawsuit, including getting answers, holding the negligent person (in this case, the dog owner) accountable, and recovering for financial harms like the cost of funeral services and lost income.
We know that dog bite wrongful death claims are sensitive matters. You’re still reeling from this loss, and it’s hard to even imagine what a future without your loved one in it will look like. We stand with the families for whom the worst-case scenario has become a terrible reality. From us, you can expect boundless compassion and support during this time of grief and a commitment to get justice for your loved one.
A dog bite isn’t something anyone plans for. Until you’re in this unexpected situation, you may never even think about what to do next.
Here’s what our New Jersey dog bite lawyers urge you to do in the immediate aftermath of a dog bite, based on our decades of experience handling these cases:
Your health should be your number-one priority right now. As soon as the aggressive dog is removed from the scene, you need to care for your wounds.
For minor wounds, it’s crucial that you stop the bleeding and clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
Under the World Health Organization (WHO) dog bite guidelines, anyone bitten by a dog or other animal that could potentially be infected with rabies should flush and wash the wound for at least 15 minutes.
The CDC recommends using an antibiotic cream and covering the wound with a clean, sterile dressing, like a bandage or gauze.
For deep wounds, always seek professional medical attention immediately. Apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth to stop the bleeding. Call an ambulance or have someone drive you to a medical facility for treatment.
The damage done by the dog’s jaws and teeth is only one part of the danger of a dog bite. A bite also puts you at risk for infections that could be serious.
The likelihood of a severe infection from a dog bite depends on factors such as:
Although serious infections more commonly result from deep dog bite wounds, even a comparably minor wound may become infected. It’s a good idea to seek medical attention for a dog bite in any case, but particularly if you haven’t had a recent tetanus vaccination.
If you choose not to seek medical attention for a minor dog bite wound right away, it’s crucial to be vigilant about checking on the wound over the following hours and days. Any changes that could indicate infection should be brought to a medical provider’s attention immediately.
If you went to the emergency room immediately following the attack, make sure you stick to all of the doctor’s instructions. Follow up promptly with the appropriate primary care or specialist providers.
Not sure what type of doctor you need to see for your condition? Let our knowledgeable staff help you figure out which specialist makes the most sense for your injuries.
It’s not always the dog bite wound itself that is fatal, but sometimes an infection or other dog bite complication that can be lethal. If a dog bite exposes you to Capnocytophaga infection, life-threatening conditions like sepsis can set in quickly, sometimes resulting in death within 24 hours of developing the first symptom, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Seeing a doctor for a wound that turns out not to be serious may be inconvenient, but neglecting to see a doctor when you need one could be deadly.
To preserve your legal rights, you must document that the dog bite occurred. The sooner you are able to do this, the better – but not, of course, at the expense of your immediate health.
You probably feel like the attack and its aftermath are two things you will never forget. Unfortunately, you may need more evidence than your account of what happened if you’re going to get the compensation you deserve for this injury.
Documenting the dog bite means:
Even if it occurs to you to report a dog bite, you may not know who you should be reporting the bite to.
There are a few different authorities you may need to contact as a result of a dog bite:
The officer will take down the information from all parties to draft a police report of the incident. This report will be valuable in pursuing a dog bite insurance claim. An officer can also assist with emergency first aid, confining the dog if needed, and explain to you any local laws regarding reporting bites to animal control or other entities.
Quarantine may be done at a shelter or impoundment facility or at the owner’s home. Even if the dog that bit you is quarantined, you may still need to undergo post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which may include vaccinations and other medications, to prevent you from getting sick.
Under New Jersey law, animal bites must be reported to the local health department. This should be done within 12 hours of the bite’s occurrence.
Remember, reporting the dog bite doesn’t mean that harm will come to the dog or the owner. The dog will likely be quarantined, possibly in its own home, to ensure that it is not sick.
Authorities may perform an investigation. Typically, dogs are only euthanized if the attack was highly aggressive or is part of a pattern or history of aggressive behavior, or if the dog is found to have rabies or a similar disease that cannot be treated. An investigation may result in the dog’s owner being required to take additional precautions to prevent further incidents.
You should always call the authorities after a dog bite, whether you plan to pursue a personal injury claim or not.
Why? Because an animal attack isn’t the kind of injury you can just brush off. Calling 911 to alert the authorities to a dog bite accomplishes three important steps:
If so, call 911 for emergency help right away.
Dispatchers can send an ambulance to get you to the hospital. More importantly, the stabilizing care they provide on the way can make a big difference in how successful your dog bite injury treatment is.
The 911 dispatchers can also send police to help stop the ongoing rampage of an aggressive dog, so no one else has to get hurt.
The earlier you get an attorney involved in your case, the more help we are able to be to you. We can help you figure out those confusing first steps, handle all dealings with the insurance company from the get-go, and otherwise streamline your life so you have less to worry about right now.
It’s never too soon after a dog bite to speak to an attorney. Even if your medical prognosis is still uncertain and your treatment ongoing, we can begin crucial tasks like:
Is it ever too late to find a lawyer for a New Jersey dog bite claim? It can be, which is why it’s important not to wait too long to get help.
For dog bites, as with other negligence claims, New Jersey generally imposes a statute of limitations that requires lawsuits to be filed within 2 years of the date of the incident.
If you wait until 2 years after the dog bite occurred, you may be barred from pursuing a claim unless your case is an exception to this rule. For example, for dog bites suffered by minors, the statute of limitations typically ends two years after the minor turns 18.
Additionally, if you wait until you are too close to this deadline, an attorney may feel there is not enough time to prepare your case for success before the deadline. You may have a tough time finding an attorney with a solid reputation handling dog bite claims – or, for that matter, any attorney at all – to take on your case if you wait until this deadline is looming.
The reality is that not every dog bite victim realizes that they need an attorney right away. You shouldn’t let that deter you from taking the right steps now, but it is important to have realistic expectations.
If you waited longer than the average dog bite victim to speak to a lawyer, the answers to questions like whether you still have a case and how late is too late depend heavily on the unique facts of your case.
Scenario #1: You didn’t want to make the dog bite into a legal matter, but you did take it seriously. You reported it to the police or the health department. You went to urgent care or the emergency room and have had follow-up care since then. You have pictures of the wounds and know people who witnessed the attack. The reason you’re thinking about hiring a lawyer now is because you’re still out of work and just found out that you need surgery – which means more medical expenses and even more time out of work.
The fact that you did a good job documenting the attack and your injuries, and that you have been seeking medical care from the start, will really help you. Call a dog bite attorney right away, because the sooner you get us involved, the more we can do for you and for your claim.
Scenario #2: Suppose hiring a dog bite attorney isn’t the only part of the process you’re behind on. If you didn’t see a doctor or document the dog bite at the time it happened, that may make it much harder for an attorney to win your case. You didn’t call Animal Control because the dog’s owner begged you not to, and you didn’t go to the emergency room or urgent care because you didn’t want to incur big medical bills for an injury you hoped was minor. Now, though, you’ve noticed the wound is swelling and hot to the touch, and you’re feeling numbness or weakness in the body part that was bitten.
The first thing you need to do in this situation is get medical care immediately. Once that’s taken care of, you should reach out to an attorney to see whether we can help. A lawyer will need to know what information and documentation you have that can serve as evidence that the attack actually happened (becauses, believe it or not, an insurer may try to claim that it didn’t). With a thorough investigation, a lawyer may be able to locate sufficient evidence to make your claim viable in spite of the delay (and if not, you haven’t lost anything by speaking to a lawyer, since the consultation was free).
The help you need after an animal attack is just a phone call away. Call our New Jersey dog bite attorneys today, and let us get your life back on track.
No rationale can change what’s happened or undo the harm you’ve suffered. But, for many dog bite survivors, the persistent question comes up all the same: Why would a dog bite me?
There are many reasons why dogs bite humans.
If you’ve ever seen dogs rush to the window to bark at pedestrians or cyclists, you know that dogs can be territorial animals.
They want to defend what, in their mind, is theirs. Although many dogs are friendly, some dogs may see outsiders, especially new people, as a threat.
If you’ve been the victim of a dog bite for no reason, or at least no reason you could figure out, territorialism may be to blame. The dog may have felt that you were a threat in or near its home or disapproved of your proximity to a beloved human, a favorite toy, a food bowl, or any number of other possessions.
Often, territorial dogs aren’t shy about showing you that they don’t appreciate you being on their turf. Barking, growling, and other aggressive behaviors are common. But the dog’s owner may have brushed off the warning signs and assured you that there was nothing to worry about. You found out, the worst way, that the owner was wrong.
However, on some occasions, a territorial dog may bite without warning if its owner has conditioned it – intentionally or otherwise – not to growl or bark without addressing the territorialism that is the root cause of the behavior.
Provocation is a common cause of dog bites. Provoking a dog means that someone – the victim or someone else in the vicinity – did something that contributed to the attack.
You should never directly provoke a dog. Actions that may be considered direct provocation include physically harming the dog, behaving in a way that makes the dog feel threatened with physical harm, or taunting the dog. People who directly provoked the dog in this manner are unlikely to get compensation for their injuries, because they assumed the risk of a dog bite by engaging in those actions.
But other, seemingly innocuous acts may also provoke a dog to bite, even though the victim had no ill intentions. Examples include:
If you provoked the dog without meaning to, you may still have the grounds for a claim. This is particularly true when the aggression is clearly out of proportion to the “provocation.” For example, if a dog viciously attacked when the victim petted it a little too hard, that can be a very different situation than if the dog responded with a minor nip that didn’t cause injury.
Remember, feelings of guilt and blame are common features of the emotional distress that accompanies a dog bite. That doesn’t mean these feelings are warranted or that you deserved to be bitten.
As loyal and loving as pets can be, they’re still animals. They have different instincts than humans do, and at times, those instincts can be destructive and even dangerous.
Some of the instincts that can contribute to biting include:
Aggressive behaviors aren’t necessarily inborn. Often, a history of abuse or neglect is what’s behind a dog’s aggressive behaviors.
Dogs that are abused may learn that humans will hurt them, even if you had no intention of doing so. If neglected, they may be hungry, thirsty, sick, in pain, or poorly socialized.
It’s certainly not your fault if a dog that has been abused or neglected bites you because of these past experiences. It may not even be directly the fault of the dog’s current owner. The abuse may have occurred a long time ago, at the hands of a previous owner.
However, the dog’s current owner does have a responsibility to keep an aggressive dog away from individuals it might harm, even if the reason for the dog’s aggressive behavior is a history of prior abuse or neglect.
Some dogs may be more likely to bite a human when food is added to the mix. Some examples of dog bites that pertain to food include:
Biting a human could be a genuine accident, as the dog excitedly went for its food, or it could be an extreme instance of food guarding or food aggression. Either way, if the bite caused significant injury, it’s worth exploring your legal rights and options.
Not all dog bites are a result of aggression. In some cases, an otherwise friendly dog may get so excited that it nips a person.
Sometimes – such as when the dog is a particularly large breed or the human victim is a small child – that nip is enough to cause injury, even if the dog didn’t intend to hurt you.
A bite sustained in a non-aggressive incident is often not as severe as one that happens during a full-blown attack, when a dog that is afraid, angry, or territorial intends to scare off or harm the victim. But if that unintentional nip happens to occur on a body part where it does considerable damage, it can be a real problem. Nerve damage and infection are some of the issues you are more likely to face when the bite was non-aggressive.
Even a non-aggressive bite could be the grounds for a dog bite lawsuit if it resulted in injuries. It’s a good idea to speak to an attorney about your options. Remember, pursuing a lawsuit doesn’t mean that the dog will be put down or that its owner will have to get rid of the dog. It just means that you’re able to afford the medical care you need through the insurance coverage the dog’s owner has already paid to purchase.
You and the dog were having a good old time – until the rough play turned into a very real bite. Chasing and wrestling with a dog may seem as welcome by your canine companion as it to you, but dogs aren’t always able to tell the difference between playing rough with a human and actually hurting them.
Some bites are the fault of a vicious dog and others clearly the fault of the dog’s owner.
Then there are bites that seem truly out of the blue. Although the dog owner has the legal responsibility to control the animal, you might not feel that the owner – particularly a friend or family member – is personally to blame.
You may also blame yourself partially for setting the dog off, thinking things like “I shouldn’t have done…” or “I wish I hadn’t…” Unless you were truly provoking the dog, those feelings of blame and guilt are likely misplaced.
Even if your well-meaning attention to the dog played a part in the attack, you may still qualify for compensation. New Jersey has a comparative negligence law that allows victims to recover money damages if they are less than 50 percent at fault for the injury. Don’t forget, the dog’s owner is the one with the legal responsibility to keep the dog under control.
Sorting out the reason behind a dog bite and what caused things to escalate may feel important because you want answers, but this, in and of itself, won’t help you get better. Let your dog bite attorneys be the ones to focus on causation while you work toward recovery. Our investigation of the dog’s history and the opinions of expert witnesses with a background in canine behavior can reveal more answers than you might expect without taking your energy away from rehabilitation – all while we work on building your case for compensation.
Is a dog owner always liable for the injuries resulting from a bite? No, not necessarily.
Generally, the owner is liable for the dog’s behavior when the dog is:
The three most common defenses used in dog bite cases are:
Trespassing means that the victim was not lawfully on the private property where the bite occurred. A burglar breaking into a home would be considered trespassing. That individual would not be entitled to compensation if the household’s guard dog bit them.
However, a group of neighborhood kids climbing over the fence to retrieve a ball or to visit with a new dog without the owner’s permission may also constitute trespassing. Because the dog’s owner did not have notice that the individuals were coming onto the property, they did not have the opportunity to supervise the interaction with the dog or confine the animal for the safety of the kids. Finding out if there is a viable dog bite insurance claim here is more challenging and would require a meticulous review of the unique facts of your situation.
Additionally, the trespassing defense may not hold up legally if you were not knowingly trespassing.
Thanks to New Jersey’s contributory negligence law, a dog bite victim may be able to recover compensation even if found partially at fault for the event. Some examples of instances in which you might be found contributorily negligent include:
The specific facts of your situation will determine whether you have a strong case for compensation, will be considered contributorily negligent, or assumed the risk fully so that you have no claim.
If you aren’t sure whether your situation is the grounds for a dog bite insurance claim, you should speak to an attorney who offers a free consultation and no-win, no-fee legal representation. This will allow you to go into detail about your circumstances without incurring any costs.
Dog breeds differ in more than just appearance. They were bred for different characteristics and instincts and have different sizes, temperaments, and jaw and skull structures. A common question is whether a dog’s breed influences its propensity to bite or the damage its bite can inflict.
So, what dog bites the most? And what dog bites the hardest?
These questions remain a matter of contention. Certainly, some dog breeds have a reputation for biting, whether deserved or not.
Among dog breeds, pit bulls tend to have the worst reputation for biting and aggression.
In 2018, Forbes labeled pit bulls “America’s most dangerous dog breed.” The publication sought to back up its claim with a statistic that, between 2005 and 2017, 284 of the 430 dog bite fatalities were attributed to pit bulls. According to Forbes, that means a breed that accounts for just 6.5 percent of dogs in the United States also accounts for 66 percent of dog bite deaths.
Pit Bulls represent just 6.5 % of dogs in the United States, but also account for 66% of dog bite deaths
The American Animal Hospital Association 2019 study also found that pit bulls were responsible for the highest percentage of reported bites – 22.5 percent – of all dog breeds.
And, according to DogsBite.org, pit bulls and Rottweilers combined accounted for 76 percent of fatal dog bites – with pit bulls killing 311 victims and rottweilers killing 47.
Some insurance companies and policies refuse to cover their policyholder’s pit bulls and others charge higher premiums for covering these and other dog breeds they deem aggressive. Breed-specific legislation often targets pit bulls because of this reputation.
Certainly, their large size means that pit bulls that do bite with full force are capable of inflicting serious harm. That’s true of other large dogs, too, however.
Is a pit bull really more dangerous than other breeds?
A 2014 publication by the Animals and Society Institute, supported by the National Canine Research Council, noted one of the concerns in labeling any dog breed particularly aggressive.
“Reliable” breed identification – achieved through purebred pedigrees, DNA analysis, and documentation of mixed breed ancestry – is only available in around 18 percent of all dog bite incidents.
Most reports of the breed of dog involved in a bite are made by the media, not by experts using reliable methods of breed identification. Further, 90 percent of media reports on dog bites list only one breed, but it’s statistically unlikely that purebred dogs are the ones responsible for all of this biting, since mixed breeds make up around half of the canine population.
The kind of visual identification of dog breeds commonly used in media coverage – and particularly of mixed breed dogs – is highly unreliable. That’s especially true when it comes to dogs classed as pit bulls, a categorization which instead of functioning as a single, distinct breed tends to encompass four distinct breeds – the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Bully, and the American Staffordshire Terrier.
Under the study reported in the Animals and Society Institute publication, the 18 percent of dog bites in which a breed was reliably identified included dogs of 20 different breeds.
Further, breed-specific legislation – primarily targeting pit bulls – is controversial. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Kennel Club, and other professional organizations have taken stands against breed-specific legislation as ineffective and discriminatory. The American Bar Association, too, has adopted the stance that breed-neutral laws are better suited to encourage responsible pet ownership than breed-specific laws.
Among the many different breeds of dogs that have been identified as being involved in fatal dog bites by the CDC are:
Further, the following breeds of dogs have been the ones for which policyholders are most commonly denied coverage by insurance companies, according to Psychology Today:
Over the more than 25 years our dog bite attorneys have practiced law in New Jersey, we’ve seen our share of bites committed by these dog breeds. But we’ve also seen some very serious bites committed by dog breeds not on this list – from Golden Retrievers to Chihuahuas, and everything in between.
We stand with all victims of aggressive dogs – regardless of the breed or size of the dog.
If you’re looking at the objective amount of damage a dog bite can do, then you should take a look at the force of a dog bite.
Bite force is typically measured in pounds per square inch, although you may come across data that measures bite force in Newtons. Be careful not to confuse Newtons for pounds! Although both units of measurement can be used to measure force, a Newton is a much smaller unit of measurement that equates to just 0.22 of a pound.
For years, rumors floated around that certain dogs, such as Rottweilers and pit bulls, could bite with an astonishing force of 2,000 pounds per square inch – equal to that of a hippo that’s 35 times its weight. But that’s not true, Psychology Today reported. This rumor likely originated with misunderstandings of the unit of measurement (Newtons vs. pounds) and questionable measurement techniques that use indirect and theoretical computations over reliable experimental data.
The factors researchers have identified that predict the true force of an animal’s bite strength include:
The larger the dog and the wider its jaw, the harder it is capable of biting, according to these researchers. What part of the jaw is used in the bite also matters. Bite force is much stronger in the rear of the jaw than the front. That’s why a nip with the dog’s front teeth only is usually far less devastating than a bite in which the dog’s entire jaw closes on the victim.
By the methods of measurement widely considered accurate, even the Mastiff – the dog with the largest head and widest jaw among canines – can only produce a bite strength of 552 pounds per square inch (PSI). A Rottweiler’s bite strength is in the ballpark of 328 PSI, nowhere near that often repeated 2,000 figure.
Underestimating the potential of a dog to bite and cause harm can make the situation more risky. Owners and potential victims aren’t taking the proper precautions to interact with a dog safely may unintentionally contribute to the likelihood of a bite or other attack occurring.
No one who owns or interacts with a dog should dismiss the risk of a dog biting based on factors like the dog’s breed, its size, or even its usual friendly temperament.
Dog bites are usually preventable if everyone involved is alert for warning signs, adults closely supervise children around animals, and dogs’ owners take responsibility for keeping both their dogs and their fellow humans safe.
In a perfect world, no dogs would ever bite. But in reality, dog bites occur at a rate of more than 500 every single hour in the United States.
These bites can be prevented. Avoiding dog bites just takes additional precautions.
Keeping your dog under control is your responsibility under the law. A responsible pet owner should always take all steps possible to avoid a bite.
You’re not at fault if a vicious dog attacks you. That said, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of being a victim or the damage the attack is likely to do. Knowing ways to prevent a dog bite can help the traumatized survivors of animal attacks feel more prepared and less afraid.
The success of your dog bite insurance claim depends on state and local laws and regulations.
Generally, New Jersey allows individuals who are injured in the state due to someone else’s negligence to seek compensation for their injuries and other damages.
For a case like yours, a set of more specific dog bite laws in New Jersey address matters like:
Our attorneys know the ins and outs of state-level dog bite laws in NJ and are familiar with the types of local laws found in municipalities all over the state.
When we talk about New Jersey dog bite law, what we’re specifically referring to is statute 4:19-16. Under this statute:
The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
New Jersey statute 4:19-16 establishes strict liability of the owner, regardless of viciousness of the dog. Let’s break this legalese down so it’s a little easier to understand.
Statute 4:19-16 puts the liability, or legal responsibility, for a dog bite squarely on the owner of the dog.
A dog owner may try to blame the victim for the injury. That happens a lot, in fact. But there’s a good chance their excuse won’t hold up in court, especially if you can show that the attack took place either in a public place or in a private place you were lawfully occupying.
The language of the law that reads “regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness” is crucial to your case. For you, this means one important thing: it doesn’t matter whether the dog that attacked you has a history of aggression. You can get the money damages you deserve no matter what.
Does it matter if it was the dog’s first bite? In New Jersey, no. But in other states, it may.
Not every state imposes strict liability on the owner. In some states, owners are only responsible for the harm their dangerous dogs cause if the dog has already bitten someone once before. That means dog bite victims in these states are frequently denied the opportunity to seek compensation for their injuries and medical expenses.
The aggressive dog – and its owner – get “one bite free.” The victim gets nothing – no help for their medical bills, no compensation to make them whole again.
Having been in the business for decades, our dog bite lawyers are grateful that New Jersey is not a “one bite” state. We’ve seen firsthand the amount of damage a victim can suffer even from a dog that has “never bitten anyone before.”
We, like the state legislature, know how important it is that every individual who sustains a severe dog bite injury is able to recover physically, emotionally, and financially from the attack.
Statute 4:19-16 is New Jersey’s official law on dog bite liability, but it’s one of many different NJ statutes addressing the broader issue of dog owner responsibility and animal control as a whole.
Under statute 4:19-15.2, dog owners must register their pet with their municipal government and secure a license from their municipality.
The dog should wear a collar with the up-to-date licensing tag at all times. Municipalities may determine whether dog licenses are renewed annually or every three years, but in either case, dog owners must renew the license throughout their ownership of the dog.
Dog licensing laws help dog bite victims by making it easier to determine who owns the dog – and who is responsible for any harm it causes.
Under state law (statute 4:19-15.2a), owners must furnish proof that their dog is up to date on its rabies vaccinations in order to obtain a license. Vaccination laws like this also help dog bite victims.
Rabies is a contagious disease that can be passed from dogs to humans and is one of the biggest infection concerns when dog bites occur. Vaccination requirements increase the proportion of dogs that are inoculated and reduce the risk of rabies spreading throughout the local canine community and, through a dog bite, to a human victim.
New Jersey does not establish statewide leash laws. Under that strict liability language in statute 4:19-16, the dog’s owner is responsible for the damage it causes whether it is on a leash or not.
However, the state legislature leaves up to the individual counties and municipalities the right to pass additional laws pertaining to the regulation of dogs at large. This means that, even though there is no state leash law, there may be leash laws in your area that come into play in your dog bite case.
In Bordentown, for example, dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet when in a public place. Further, that leash must be held by a responsible person at least 12 years of age, the Burlington County Times reported.
Even if the municipality where you were bitten doesn’t impose a leash law, state law (statute 4:19-15.16) allows for the impoundment of stray dogs and dogs that are off of the owner’s premises.
You don’t have to know whether your area has leash laws in effect to move forward with your claim. Although being able to show that the dog’s owner was breaking this law may help support an argument of negligence, it isn’t vital to your claim. Our dog bite attorneys will carefully examine all applicable laws – at every relevant level of government – as we craft a compelling claim for compensation on your behalf. We’ll find out for you whether leash laws apply to your area and determine if and how these regulations fit into your claim.
New Jersey does not have any state-wide statutes that regulate the ownership of specific breeds of dogs. In fact, state law prohibits using breed alone to label a dog as dangerous, vicious or aggressive, according to the American Kennel Club.
Breed-specific legislation isn’t necessary for dog bite victims to move forward with a claim. The dog’s owner is strictly liable for the harm it causes, no matter what breed of dog it is.
A history of aggression is not required to move forward with a dog bite lawsuit. Unlike “one bite” states, New Jersey recognizes the necessity of allowing victims to recover compensation regardless of whether or not the dog was known to be vicious. However, assessing viciousness is still important for matters such as determining if a dog should be euthanized.
Under New Jersey’s S1923 law, a municipal court may determine that a dog is vicious if it “killed a person or caused serious bodily injury… to a person” and the attack was not provoked. Governor Phil Murphy signed this bill into law in May 2019, according to NJ.com. This update to the previous New Jersey dog bite law removed language that allowed or compelled the State to declare a dog vicious purely for having been made to engage in dog fighting activities or for having harmed another animal.
A dog also can’t be declared dangerous for attacking a person who was trespassing, committing a crime, or abusing or threatening the dog or its offspring.
Even if a dog is declared vicious under New Jersey law, it won’t necessarily be euthanized. Municipal courts have the right to order either humane euthanasia or impose stringent restrictions that the dog’s owner must meet to protect the public.
The dog bite statute of limitations acts as a legal timeline. If you don’t file your lawsuit before this deadline arrives, you lose the right to pursue a claim.
The New Jersey statute of limitations for dog bites is typically two years from the date of the attack. That means, within that two-year period, you must:
Two years may seem like a long time, but a lot must be done before that deadline arrives.
Additionally, two years is the typical statute, but there are exceptions:
Between the severity of the consequences of missing the statute of limitations and the pressing matter of investigating the attack and documenting your injuries, waiting to move forward with your claim isn’t in your best interests. The sooner you get an attorney involved in this matter, the more help we can be to you as you work to recover from the dog bite.
Getting compensation for your dog bite injuries in New Jersey is still a challenge. The burden is on you – or your dog bite attorney – to support your claim for compensation with reliable, compelling evidence.
Generally, winning a dog bite lawsuit will require you to prove the following:
You’ve established that the dog bite happened. The next question will be whether the injuries you suffered actually resulted from the dog bite. Again, this may seem obvious, but anything is fair game to an insurance company that doesn’t want to pay out a claim.
Suppose you were bitten on an arm that, years ago, you developed a repetitive stress injury, like carpal tunnel syndrome, in or broke in an accident. Even if you’ve had no problem with function in the arm for years, the insurance company may try to argue that any new nerve damage or loss of function should be considered pre-existing. That’s a way to get out of paying for some of the harm you suffered.
An experienced dog bite attorney should be prepared for these kinds of excuses and be ready to refute them. Perhaps the most important step we can take to counter these irrational arguments is to consult a respected medical expert. A medical expert can help strengthen your claim by using their specialized expertise to address whether your complaints are a result of this new injury or an old one and provide evidence that supports their conclusion.
How much money your case is worth depends on the significance of the damages you’re seeking compensation for. If the insurance company can downplay your damages, then it can also reduce the amount of money it pays out.
Proving the extent of your damages requires comprehensive documentation. Every medical bill you incurred must be part of the file. Every hour of work you missed because of the injury, follow-up appointments, physical therapy sessions, and recovery from surgeries and other procedures has a place in your claim. We also need to forecast any future damages. Will you need ongoing medical care? Are you likely to lose out on even more wages due to needing additional time off?
It may sound like a lot of work to prove all of these points so you can move forward with your claim. The good news is that this work doesn’t fall on you.
Gathering and organizing these documents, securing the assistance of expert witnesses, countering the insurance company’s frustrating attempts to pay less than you deserve – that’s our job, not yours.
Thanks to New Jersey’s strict liability laws, victims bitten here in the Garden State don’t have to prove as much as victims in some other states do. The law clearly states that the dog’s owner is liable for the damages it causes.
Under statute 4:19-16, the dog’s owner is still responsible for the dog bite “even if he or she used reasonable care to restrain the dog or to protect or warn others,” according to the New Jersey Certified Animal Control Officer Association.
While the law is on your side in a New Jersey dog bite case, that doesn’t mean getting full compensation will be easy. If you’re trying to do this on your own, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. The insurance company knows that you don’t have experience with the claims process. It may try to trick you into settling for far less than you deserve or pressure you into taking a bad deal by saying it’s “the only offer” (or the “best” offer) you’re going to get.
Hiring an attorney can triple the value of your claim!
Attorneys recover 3.5 times more money for their clients than unrepresented plaintiffs get for themselves. If you’re on the fence about whether you need a lawyer, just look at the data. Hiring a personal injury attorney, especially on a no-win, no-fee basis, can more than triple the value of your claim.
You will need someone on your side who understands every aspect of the law, someone an insurance adjuster won’t be able to intimidate into accepting less than the maximum amount of compensation: a determined New Jersey dog bite attorney with experience handling six-figure dog bite claims.
Anyone who comes into contact with a dog can potentially be bitten. However, dog bite injuries are an especially persistent problem for children, as well as for delivery workers.
A vicious mauling is every parent’s nightmare. But for millions of families, it becomes a horrifying reality. Half of the more than 4,500,000 Americans bitten by a dog each year are defenseless children.
A combination of factors puts children at a greater risk for dog bites – and especially for severe bite injuries.
Statistically, about half of children will suffer a dog bite by the time they finish high school, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported.
In one study of fatal dog bites, more than 16 percent of victims over the five-year period studied were children under one year old, Johns Hopkins Medicine reported.
When a dog bites a baby, it may be because a crawling infant or an early walker manages to intrude on what the dog sees as its territory. The baby may stumble upon a toy that the dog feels possessive about or simply not know that grabbing the dog in a certain way can hurt it.
But in other instances, it’s hard to figure out the cause. In fact, 10 percent of the deadly dog bites happened when the infant was sleeping in a bed or crib – clearly not provoking the dog, even accidentally.
Was the dog jealous of the baby’s attention? Did the dog fail to recognize the baby as part of the family, mistaking it for some kind of intruder? Was the mauling a tragic accident by a dog that only wanted to play?
No one can say for sure. To minimize the risk of dog bites, close adult supervision is always necessary when small children interact with dogs – even sleeping babies.
Toddlers are more active and more able to get into, well, just about everything. Far from this level of physical independence making them safer around dogs, it can actually put them at a greater risk.
They’re faster, more curious, and more determined than infants. Often, toddlers still don’t understand how to carefully pet a dog or the signs that a dog may be growing frustrated with their behavior.
A toddler may not yet be able to understand when it is okay to pet a dog, and when it is not. Even toddlers who know better often struggle with impulse control.
In a study of 7,900 child dog bite incidents over an eight-year period that culminated in injuries serious enough to send the victim to a trauma center for treatment, 30 percent of the victims were 2 years old or younger, Reuters reported. An even greater proportion – 34 percent – of victims in the cases studied were between the age of 6 and 12 years old.
Dogs absolutely bite toddlers, preschoolers, and even older children. And the damage they cause can be devastating.
All in all, around 600,000 children suffer dog bites severe enough to seek medical attention each year, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported.
How bad are these bites? Check out the following alarming statistics from Johns Hopkins Medicine:
Some of the most serious bite injuries cause so much damage and disfiguration that the victim must undergo one or more reconstructive surgeries. The majority of reconstructive surgeries that are linked to dog bites are performed on children, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported.
Not only are children three times more likely to get bitten by a dog than adults are, but they’re also more likely to get bitten in particularly dangerous areas, like the face, head and neck. A dog bite to the face can cause critical injuries and loss of function.
“Remaining calm” is a lot easier said than done when your child is hurt.
We know it’s hard. You’d give anything to erase the terrible moment when the bite occurred, but it’s not possible. What your child needs from you right now is to do everything in your power to protect their future – so that things will be okay again, even if they aren’t right now.
Take a deep breath. You’re there for your child, and we’ll be there for you.
Here are the top three steps you must take right away to help your child through the ordeal of a dog attack:
The first thing you must do is get your child medical care now.
If the injuries seem severe, take your child to the emergency room. Although rare, kids die from dog bites every year. Underestimating the seriousness of your child’s wounds could be what allows a tragedy to occur.
One study of dog bite victims under 18 who went to the emergency room showed that more than 20 percent of cases required intervention in the operating room – with bites from large dogs being more likely to necessitate operative repair.
Make sure you follow up on your child’s medical care, including making appointments with specialists and getting tests done. In many cases, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to fight off possible infections of a bite wound. Make sure your child takes the full course of antibiotics as directed.
Dog bites are a public health concern, and it’s essential that you report them to the appropriate authorities. Depending on the situation, that could include local animal control and police departments as well as your local health department.
Don’t worry about getting the dog, or the dog owner, in trouble. What matters right now is your child’s health.
If your child’s health is your top priority, protecting their legal rights should be a close second.
There’s a chance that your child could need ongoing medical care, including physical therapy, scar revision surgery, and therapy to cope with the emotional trauma of the attack. If some aspect of the injury is irreversible, your child’s life will never be the same.
Your family deserves compensation for the medical bills, for the permanent changes to your child’s life and future, and for the pain and suffering your kid had to endure.
If you try to manage this situation on your own, you’re giving up your child’s legal rights to pursue the maximum amount of compensation. Talk to an experienced child dog bite lawyer about how to best protect your child’s legal rights and future – without burdening your family with out-of-pocket legal costs.
Maybe the attack was a close call – a warning nip or what dog trainers call a “superficial wound.”
This frightening experience, thankfully, did not lead to any severe physical harm. But it opened your eyes to what could happen – and to the possibility that even a dog you know could bite an innocent child.
This is a difficult revelation, but the fact that it happened before any real harm was done is actually a good thing. It means you can take precautions going forward to prevent future bites.
The second most common group of dog bite victims are senior citizens. This is particularly worrying because older people may not be able to recover from an injury as readily or be able to fend off or escape from an aggressive dog compared to younger adults.
Don’t make exceptions – not for the neighbor’s friendly pooch, the dog your friend swears would never bite, or even a pet in your own household.
You may love a dog like part of your family, but that doesn’t make its teeth any duller or its jaw strength any lower.
Among children under age 4 who sustain dog bite injuries, 47 percent were bitten by their own family’s dog, usually in the family home, DogsBite.org reported.
Dog bites at work are a common problem, particularly among delivery workers.
The cliche of a dog that bites the mail carrier has more than just a grain of truth to it. Several thousands of postal workers sustain dog bites each year while on the job. In fact, the problem is so widespread that the United States Postal Service releases an annual dog attack report and ranking of the top cities and states where postal workers most commonly suffer dog bite injuries.
In 2018, 5,714 postal workers were bitten. New Jersey was not among the top 10 states for dog bites to postal workers, but our state was still the site of 153 dog attacks on mail carriers. That means an attack occurs more frequently than once every three days in NJ.
The top 10 cities in America for dog bites to postal workers included:
In the current age of online shopping, Amazon delivery workers and other package delivery workers – employed by FedEx, UPS, HDL, and more – are making more rounds than ever before. So are app-based delivery workers who deliver groceries, takeout food, and other goods.
Any worker who goes to a customer’s or client’s home to make a sale, deliver or install a product, or provide a service could be at risk if an unconfined dog is in the mix. Some workers get bitten on the job if an employer, manager, or colleague brings a dog into the workplace environment, especially if the dog is poorly trained and left unrestrained.
If you suffered a dog bite while working, there are a lot of complex factors that could impact what legal rights and options you have. What is certain is that you deserve to be compensated for the harm you have suffered.
You might seek that compensation through any of the following legal matters:
The type of claim that makes the most sense for you to pursue depends on the specific circumstances of your employment and attack. A free consultation with an attorney can help you understand what you can do about a dog bite at work.
The vast majority of dog bites – 77 percent – are perpetrated by the victim’s family’s own dog or the dog of a friend, relative, or a neighbor, according to Kids-n-K9s.
When familiar dogs bite you, it leads to a scenario that can feel unfamiliar and disorienting.
Should you still sue for a dog bite when the dog’s owner is a relative, a neighbor, or a friend?
If a stray dog you didn’t know mauled you and caused the same severe injuries that this familiar dog did, you might not think twice about reporting the bite. You wouldn’t let anyone talk you out of getting medical care. And filing an insurance claim for compensation would seem like the next logical step.
The fact that you know the dog and its owner can make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing. Your concern for the owner and their canine companion may make you agree not to report the bite. Out of fear that you will have to reveal how you got the injury, you might decide to just wash the wound and try to bandage it up yourself instead of getting professional medical attention. And that same insurance claim for compensation can feel too personal to pursue.
Suing a friend or relative for a personal injury matter, like a dog bite, can sound awkward at best and capable of ruining a relationship at worst.
But the reality is that people who know and like each other – friends, relatives, neighbors, even significant others – sue each other all the time.
Your friend bought insurance coverage that protects them in a situation in which they are legally liable for an injury. The person who got injured in this event happened to be you, their friend. Now, as the person who was injured, you have the right to make a claim for compensation from that insurance policy your friend has already paid for.
It really is that simple. In fact, because New Jersey does have a strict liability law, you don’t even have to argue that your friend committed some act of gross negligence. Your friend is automatically liable for the harm their dog causes, and you’re entitled to compensation through their insurance policy, period.
We know there are a lot of reasons why you would be reluctant to sue a friend for a dog bite. We’ve heard them all, often from people who really need compensation but who worry about what a lawsuit will do to their friend or the friendship.
Let us put your mind at ease.
Why Bite Victims Are Afraid to Sue When They Know the Dog or Its Owner
Why You Should Sue Anyway
|You’re afraid that the dog will be put down if you report the bite or file a claim.||A bite, even a serious one, doesn’t equate to an order to euthanize the dog in NJ.|
|You may worry that the dog’s owner will be harmed financially by a lawsuit.||The owner isn’t the one who pays. Their insurance company is – and your friend purchased insurance coverage for the purpose of accidents and incidents like this.|
|You don’t want your friend to face legal consequences.||Criminal charges are rare in dog bite matters in NJ and usually only occur when the dog is designated as dangerous or vicious based on prior behavior and the owner was negligent in failing to keep a dog with a known history of aggression contained.|
|You know your friend doesn’t have the money to pay for your medical bills||The money for your dog bite settlement comes from the insurance coverage, not your friend’s personal finances.|
|You don’t want your friend to feel worse about the bite or get upset at you for suing.||If the bite really was such a minor injury that you didn’t need compensation, you wouldn’t be contemplating an insurance claim in the first place. The reality is that you need this money to cover the costs of your rehabilitation and the impact of your lost wages. A true friend would understand that and would want you to do what’s best for you|
Filing an insurance claim is the only option that allows you to get the money you need to get better without bringing any harm to your friend.
For both of you, it’s a much better option than, say:
It can be hard to admit that you need to sue your friend. You may feel like it’s some noble sacrifice for the good of your friendship to avoid a lawsuit. But living with constant pain, loss of function, and disfiguring scars isn’t really living – it’s barely even surviving. And falling behind on your bills threaten your family’s stability and could even lead to you losing your home.
If you have questions about what it means to sue a friend and whether this is the right choice for your situation, speaking candidly to our dog bite attorneys can help.
The consultation is free. We only get paid if we win money for you – and only a percentage of what we get for you – so you never have to worry about being pressured into pursuing a claim that isn’t really worth suing over. We can help you better understand the process of pursuing an insurance claim and address your concerns.
If you are interested in moving forward, we can talk to you about ways to explain the situation to your friend so that they understand why you need to pursue a claim and how it will affect them (and, more importantly, why it won’t affect them in the ways they might be worried about).
These dog bite facts about New Jersey, in particular, might surprise you:
While all dog bite incidents can be frightening and even traumatic events, they don’t all cause the same injuries. There are different levels of severity of dog bites and the wounds they cause. The injuries you sustain in a dog bite, too, include different types of physical harm and may be targeted to different body parts.
To objectively measure the severity of a dog bite, you can look at Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale. Dunbar, a veterinarian, animal trainer, and animal behaviorist, developed this scale to classify the seriousness of dog bites into six levels based on the wound pathology of the victim.
The dog acts aggressively but no contact occurs between the dog’s teeth and the victim’s skin.
A dog bite without a wound may be a near miss or, more likely, a final warning from the dog before it resorts to biting. This sort of pre-bite behavior can look like snapping the air near a victim.
Since level 1 biting behavior doesn’t cause an injury – thankfully – you usually won’t be able to pursue a dog bite claim in this situation. However, a level 1 biting incident should serve as a warning to the dog’s owner that a more dangerous bite could be coming.
The owner should immediately intervene to eliminate the situation that is prompting the aggressive behavior. To avoid future conflicts, the dog’s owner should take care to avoid situations that could lead to aggression and consider options for retraining the dog.
Contact between the dog’s teeth and the victim’s skin happens, but there are no puncture wounds.
As with a level 1 incident, a level 2 is a warning that the dog may engage in further aggression and steps need to be taken, now and in the future, to prevent a crisis. The difference is that, whereas the first dog “bite” missed the skin entirely, this one made contact.
At level 2, you may find that the dog bite looks like scratch or a bruise. The dog’s teeth may make shallow “nicks” in your skin. A level 2 biting incident often results in a dog bite without blood, but that’s not always the case. A dog bite with blood may occur, but the bleeding will be minor.
The bite results in puncture wounds from the dog’s canine teeth, but these wounds aren’t especially deep. The single bite can cause one to four puncture wounds, depending on the angle and force with which the dog’s teeth closed on the victim. None of these wounds is deeper than half the length of the tooth that made it.
A level 3 dog bite wound is getting into more serious territory. Once a dog bite breaks skin, particularly with a puncture wound from the canine teeth, there’s a definite possibility of cuts and lacerations that could become infected. Although the wound is shallow, it can be very painful.
Where on the body a level 3 dog bite occurs can have a big impact on the severity of the injury. A comparably shallow puncture can still cause permanent disfiguration if it occurs to the face or loss of vision if it affects the eye.
Although nerve damage that results in loss of function is more common in deeper bite wounds, it can still occur even with a relatively shallow dog bite with broken skin – especially a bite to your fingertips, other parts of your hand, or your face.
Victims of a level 3 dog bite (or higher-level dog bite) should consider the option of moving forward with a dog bite case. Treating this level of dog bite can be costly, but the compensation secured through an insurance claim can help you afford rehabilitation.
Essentially a more serious version of a level 3 wound, this what happens when at least one of the puncture wounds sustained during a single-bite incident is deeper than half the length of the canine tooth that inflicted it.
A level 4 bite often (but not always) involves a dog shaking its head sideways during the bite or clamping down on the victim and holding on.
Besides the puncture wounds, a level 4 dog bite may be accompanied by deep bruising and more serious lacerations. A deeper and more mangled wound is more likely to require stitching, suturing or other operative care – potentially including reconstructive surgery.
In a level 5 dog bite incident, the victim sustains multiple bites, causing at least two wounds that are equal in severity and depth to a level 4 bite.
These multi-wound maulings are a very serious matter and require professional medical care.
A dog bite is only declared level 6 when the dog kills a person.
This most sobering level of bite must be reported and steps taken to make sure the dog never causes another tragedy like this again. The family of the victim should speak to an attorney about their legal rights.
What are dog bite wounds? They’re any one of the numerous kinds of injuries you can sustain in an animal attack. The wounds you suffer in a serious dog bite can change your life forever.
Some of the most common types of dog bite injuries include:
The first thing damaged in a dog bite is the epidermis, the vulnerable outer layer of your skin.
Depending on the severity of the dog bite, you might suffer superficial cuts, deep lacerations, jagged puncture wounds, skin tears, scratches, or abrasions.
For even a minor dog bite wound that breaks the skin, washing the wound is important. WHO dog bite protocols recommend washing the bite wound for at least 15 minutes to minimize the risk of transmission of diseases like rabies.
For a relatively minor scratch, stopping the bleeding may not be an issue. However, deep puncture wounds, especially from multiple bites, may be a much bigger problem. Any wound that is deep enough that it might require stitches or sutures, or that results in a considerable amount of blood loss, should be checked out by a doctor.
The most serious lacerations caused by a dog bite may require reconstructive surgery at the hand of an experienced plastic surgeon. Although full reconstruction can require multiple procedures over time, seeing a doctor right away can help make sure the wound is treated properly and promptly so that it can heal in the best possible way.
Within your body are numerous types of soft tissues that support and connect the organs and other structures that keep you alive. Injuries to these soft tissues may not show up on X-ray scans the way broken bones do, but they can be just as debilitating.
Some of the types of soft tissue that can be injured in a dog bite include:
When the soft tissues of your body become damaged, it can impact your life in so many ways.
If, after a dog bite, you can’t move your hand, see a doctor right away. Serious damage to the nerves and other soft tissues can cause weakness and paralysis – and it may not go away. A physician can advise you on the degree of nerve damage you suffered, any measures you can take to help facilitate regeneration, and surgical and nonsurgical options that may give you the best chance of restoring some function.
Some examples of nerve damage that may occur from a dog bite include:
Can a dog bite break bone? Absolutely, although it depends on the bone.
Some of the smallest and weakest bones in the human body can break when a force of just 25 pounds per square inch is applied. Remember, the largest dogs can bite with a force of more than 552 pounds per square inch. On the other hand, even this large bite force is nowhere near the amount of force needed to break the longest, strongest bone in the body – the femur, or thighbone.
The hands and face are the most common areas where dog bite victims suffer broken bones. You might also suffer fractures elsewhere in your arms, legs or feet. Although some broken bones can be put in a cast or splint and left to heal on their own, surgery is often required, especially when treating broken bones in the face and hands.
Some of the most devastating kinds of injuries are the ones that affect the brain and spinal cord.
A dog bite victim whose neck has been mauled by their attacker may sustain such serious damage to the spinal cord that permanent paralysis results. The individual may no longer be able to walk or, in the case of quadriplegia, even to move their arms and hands.
A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, sustained in a dog bite can have major effects on a victim physically and mentally. Some of the types of head injuries a dog bite victim may sustain include:
A penetrating head wound, like a bite that punctured the scalp, is an obvious cause for concern, especially in children.
However, even if the skin of the scalp remains intact, the force of the attack may cause a close-head wound like a concussion, especially if the dog knocked you down during the attack.
A traumatic brain injury may cause many types of symptoms. Some may seem like mild problems, while others can be very frightening for the person suffering them as well as their loved ones.
Some of the symptoms that may indicate that a dog bite victim has suffered a TBI, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
A traumatic brain injury can be deadly. TBIs can also cause potentially fatal complications, such as blood vessel damage, fluid buildup that leads to uncontrollable brain swelling, and serious infections.
The impact of a TBI can last for months, years – or even the rest of the individual’s life.
A brain injury survivor may struggle with paralysis or loss of sensation in their face, as well as weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the fingers, hands, toes, and other body parts. Some people who sustain a brain injury may have recurrent seizures, even years after the injury occurred.
Many brain injury survivors struggle with intellectual and cognitive problems, communication and social problems, and behavioral and emotional problems.
Intellectual and cognitive problems that are common after a TBI include:
The communication and social problems that can accompany a TBI – and last well beyond the acute phase of the injury – can include:
Behavioral and emotional changes that might follow a TBI include:
A dog bite that results in a traumatic brain injury can change everything. But even in the case of a severe TBI, improvement is possible.
With time and therapy, many brain injury survivors are able to make considerable improvements in their physical and cognitive function and their quality of life. They may be able to find new adjustments they can make to their lives that will help them cope with the challenges of a brain injury, like making a habit of writing information down if they are prone to forgetting things.
A brain injury is serious, but it’s also not a reason to give up hope. Moving forward with a dog bite insurance claim can help you afford the high costs of the most promising treatments and therapies for TBIs. If the injury is serious enough that it prevents the person from caring for themselves, your dog bite settlement may help you secure the professional medical care your loved one needs.
A dog bite to the face can cause catastrophic damage, particularly to the eyes, nose and mouth.
You’re looking at the potential of multiple surgeries to reconstruct a ripped nose or eye socket or rebuild a badly crushed jaw. Surgeons may need to attempt replantation of an amputated lip or cheek or complete a skin graft. An injury to the eye itself can result in permanent loss of vision.
In the event of a facial wound from a dog bite, you can’t afford to wait to get care. Even putting off getting medical attention for a matter of hours can allow your condition to deteriorate.
After reviewing the procedures and outcomes of patients who sustained facial injuries from a dog bite, researchers determined that “direct repair and reconstruction of facial dog bite injuries at the earliest opportunity resulted in good outcomes” for patients.
Wounds eventually heal, but that doesn’t mean the affected body part will look the same as it did before the bite. Some wounds will develop scars that, even if they don’t affect your body’s function, may be disfiguring. Scarring is particularly common when the bite wounds are deep, badly mangled, or not treated properly and promptly by a skilled medical professional.
A disfiguring scar changes how you look at and feel about yourself. Many dog bite victims find that their self-esteem suffers when they have a disfiguring wound in a highly visible place, such as the face, neck, or hands.
Your feelings about your scars can compound the emotional and psychological impact that a traumatic event like a dog bite can have. Dog bite survivors who are embarrassed of their scars may avoid the social interactions that could help them feel less isolated or be strongly reminded of the attack each time they look in the mirror. In these and other ways, disfigurement is about more than mere aesthetics. It can further harm your mental and emotional health, making you more vulnerable to developing depression or anxiety.
Doctors today are able to reduce the appearance of scars through different methods of scar revision procedures. Some of the ways a doctor may be able to make your scar less noticeable can include surgical removal, skin grafting, dermabrasion, and laser therapies.
Aggressive dogs don’t necessarily choose a target. They may attack any part of the victim’s body that they can reach.
Some of the most serious cases our New Jersey dog bite lawyers have seen involved:
The reason the body parts that become the target of a dog bite are so varied is because dogs of different sizes bite humans of different sizes, from different angles and positions and for different reasons.
For example, a child is more likely to be bitten on the face than an adult, because their face is commonly within the dog’s reach. For all but the largest dogs, attacking the face of a full-grown adult would require a considerable jump, unless the victim was knocked down in the attack or was already crouching down at the dog’s level to pet it.
Can a dog bite cause infection? Yes, it can – and it can be deadly. Dog bite infections are common due to the presence of bacteria in a dog’s mouth.
The possibility of infection is one of the biggest health risks from a dog bite. Transmission of rabies, a deadly disease, is among the most worrying prospects, but it’s not the only infection that can develop in a dog bite wound. For potentially life-threatening diseases like tetanus and rabies, you need more than home remedies.
If you think your dog bite is infected, you need to get medical help right away.
Dogs that bite are more than a legal liability. They’re a public health and safety risk. An infected dog bite can cause rabies or other diseases.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that is found in many different types of mammals – including humans.
Dogs can get rabies, which is why pet owners should always vaccinate their dogs against this disease. Other animals that get rabies include cats, raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, and farm animals. When humans develop rabies, it’s due to a bite from an infected dog or another animal.
You can’t wait for rabies symptoms – like fever, fatigue, headaches, hallucinations, confusion and eventually paralysis – to show up before you seek medical treatment. By the time the infection is producing noticeable symptoms, it is so far advanced that, usually, the condition will be fatal.
This is why it is so important to immediately get medical care after a dog bite, particularly if the dog has not been vaccinated or its vaccination status is unknown. A sequence of vaccinations can prevent victims who have been exposed to the rabies virus through a dog bite from developing this disease, but you must get those vaccinations promptly.
While most cases of dog-to-human rabies transmission result from a deep bite, the dog doesn’t have to draw blood or even break the skin necessarily. Saliva that’s infected with rabies can enter the body even through just a scratch, according to the Humane Society.
Rabies transmission can also occur if the dog’s saliva made contact with an open wound or a mucous membrane, like those found in your eyes, mouth, and nose.
Reporting the bite to animal control and the local health department is necessary to make your community safer.
Authorities can quarantine dogs to determine if they have rabies or another disease. This quarantine, along with a veterinarian exam, can help determine if you, the victim, might be at risk.
Aside from rabies, other infectious diseases that a dog can transmit to a human through a bite include:
Developing Capnocytophaga infection from a dog bite is uncommon, but it does happen, according to the CDC. What makes this bacteria so tricky is that a dog who is carrying the bacteria will not look or act sick. Only humans develop symptoms of Capnocytophaga infection – and when they do, they can become deathly ill.
Within a matter of hours, dog bite victims may develop blisters near the wound. Other symptoms of Capnocytophaga infection in humans include:
If you are going to develop Capnocytophaga infection, you will usually begin to notice symptoms within the first three to five days. However, you could see symptoms as early as the first day or as late as 14 days after the bite occurred.
Even an attack that results in a near-miss could be serious if it exposes you to Capnocytophaga. Although this bacterial infection is most often transmitted by a bite, it can also be transmitted with close contact with a dog’s saliva, the CDC reported.
Capnocytophaga infection is so serious that patients who develop a severe infection can die within 24 to 72 hours of the time symptoms begin. Not all infections are severe, but among those that are, around 3 out of 10 victims will die from the infection.
Some of the serious complications that can result from Capnocytophaga infection include:
As scary as this infection may sound, it can be prevented with prescription antibiotics if dog bite victims contact their doctor promptly.
A dog’s mouth can carry many types of bacteria, including bacteria that won’t make a dog sick but can make a human very ill. Some of these bacteria can lead to a potentially serious infection of the skin called cellulitis.
In a laboratory study of bacteria isolated in dog bite wounds, researchers identified Pasteurella as the most common aerobic organism found to appear in a bite wound, the American Society for Microbiology Journals reported. In fact, Pasteurella was present in 50 percent of the samples studied. Nearly as common as Pasteurella are Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus, each of which appeared in 46 percent of dog bite bacteria samples.
Exposure to Pasteurella, Streptococcus, and Staphylococcus can lead to cellulitis. The symptoms of cellulitis most commonly start within 24 hours. They may include fever and chills, lymph node enlargement, and the following changes in the appearance of the bite wound:
Through a physical examination and tests of any pus or discharge drained from the room, a doctor can diagnose cellulitis. The condition can be treated with a course of antibiotics such as penicillin or amoxicillin.
If the infection progresses, it may lead to serious complications, such as:
Tetanus, a serious bacterial illness, is usually more closely associated with accidents such as stepping on a rusty nail than a dog bite. However, a dog bite can expose you to Clostridium, the bacteria responsible for tetanus infections.
If you haven’t had a recent tetanus booster shot – typically, within the last five years or so – then getting this vaccination as soon as possible after a dog bite is recommended. Tetanus can cause the involuntary tightening of the muscles all over the body, including “lockjaw,” and lead to difficulty breathing and other life-threatening complications.
Dog bite infections are a very real concern. How can you tell if a dog bite wound is infected? Look for signs like the following:
Watching the wound itself is important for identifying signs of a dog bite infection, but not all symptoms of a dog bite virus or bacterial infection will be localized to the wound site.
Any unusual symptoms, from headaches and vomiting to muscle pain and stiffness, should be reported to a doctor right away.
After a dog bite, taking care of your health needs to be your top priority. Dog bite first aid isn’t a do-it-yourself matter.
You should always take precautions after a dog bite. Waiting won’t help you, because many dog bites cause injuries that won’t simply go away on their own and could even get worse if ignored.
It’s especially important to get medical care if the dog bite resulted in any of the following symptoms:
Some of these symptoms could indicate a dog bite wound infection. Others could be a sign of a serious injury, including nerve damage, from the dog bite.
It can be tempting, especially in the case of what seems like a minor bite injury, to clean and bandage the wound yourself instead of going to a medical facility for care. However, that may not be the safest choice. An untreated dog bite could result in severe, painful, life-threatening infections and diseases.
You’ve realized that you need professional medical attention. The question is, where should you go?
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may start getting medical care at:
Most dog bite victims go to urgent care facilities or emergency rooms to get help for severe dog bite injuries. If your injury is particularly serious, first responders may feel that you need to be taken immediately to a trauma center.
For a less serious bite, you may be able to call your primary doctor or your child’s regular pediatrician to see if you can get in for an emergent appointment or find out what steps your care provider recommends. If the bite caused only a scratch, was from a dog known to have been up-to-date on its shots and be well cared for, and you have recently gotten a tetanus shot, your provider may tell you what symptoms to watch out for and have you follow up.
Here’s what to expect when you seek medical care for a dog bite:
All of this necessary care is costly.
If you don’t have health insurance, you could be stuck paying all of the bills out-of-pocket. Even if you have health coverage, the deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance expenses can add up quickly.
You’re not alone if you’re worried about how to afford this medical care. It’s a common problem among dog bite victims, but solving that problem can be easier than you think. It starts with a simple phone call to an experienced New Jersey dog bite lawyer.
The dog bite is a part of your life now. It’s not something you can erase or forget. And the reality is that, for many dog bite victims, the harm it has caused you isn’t going anywhere. As the Seattle Times concluded after interviewing numerous survivors, “Dog bite victims suffer long after attack… for years, if not for a lifetime.”
The only way to begin making your life and your family whole again is to seek full compensation for every single harm you suffered as a result of the dog bite. That’s what we do for our dog bite clients: fight for every dollar of money damages they deserve.
Remember, the cost of the average dog bite claim paid by State Farm in New Jersey in 2016 was $74,190 (New Jersey 101.5). If you try to handle this on your own and you settle for less than you deserve, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. That money is exactly what will help you reach your full recovery potential and get your life back.
Recovering compensation for your dog bite starts with identifying your damages. In a dog bite insurance claim, we look primarily at two types of damages:
Economic damages refer to the losses you suffered that have a tangible price tag attached to them. We can document these damages with existing medical bills, pay stubs, income tax documents, and receipts, or make informed projections based on real numbers.
Economic damages may include:
Your non-economic damages don’t have an objective cost, so they can be a little harder to calculate. It takes a great deal of experience handling dog bite matters, as well as knowledge of how claims play out in your jurisdiction, to be able to gauge the value of these losses accurately and recover the full amount of compensation you deserve.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
There’s actually a third type of dog bite compensation that can be pursued, called punitive damages. However, cases in which this type of compensation is possible are rare. Punitive damages are awarded to a plaintiff by a judge or jury for the purpose of punishing the defendant. Dog bite cases usually only result in punitive damages if the owner’s actions were intentional.
The money for your dog bite lawsuit payout comes from the defendant’s insurance policy. You can recover an amount of compensation warranted by the extent of damages you have suffered, up to the limits of the insurance policy.
Your settlement doesn’t come directly from the dog’s owner. There are two reasons that this is better for you:
Suppose you try to handle this insurance matter yourself. How much do you realistically think an insurance adjuster is going to offer you?
In our experience, insurance companies often try to lowball injured people who handle their claim themselves. We wouldn’t be surprised if the first offer you receive through your negotiations is just 10 to 20 percent of what you really deserve.
That’s why we warn dog bite victims to never accept a first offer from the insurance company.
If you receive a settlement offer that you think might be fair, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney about your situation. Our New Jersey dog bite lawyers will be glad to evaluate your insurance settlement offer for free to help you determine if it’s a fair offer or if we think, based on more than 26 years of experience, that you deserve more.
If you think you can’t afford a lawyer for a dog bite, here’s what you need to know:
Here are the answers to some of the most common dog bite questions we hear.
If you personally know the owner of the dog that bit you, then you may fear that pursuing a claim will bring your loved one pain. You know that some dogs are put down for aggressive behavior, and you may not want the dog that bit you euthanized.
While it’s admirable that you don’t want your friend to lose his or her beloved pet, you still need to report the bite, which could be a threat to public safety, and you still need medical care (and the money to afford it).
You should know that dog euthanasia is not an automatic response to a dog bite under New Jersey law. If anything, it’s a last resort, used when a dog commits an exceptionally brutal attack or when the owner of a dog found to be vicious is unable to control its behavior to prevent additional attacks.
What usually happens after a dog bite is that the dog is impounded while the municipal court investigates the event. If there is any doubt as to the dog’s history of rabies vaccination, it may be quarantined and monitored to determine if it has the virus. Depending on the circumstances of the attack, the municipal court may hold a hearing to determine if the dog poses a further risk. If so, the court may decide what additional steps to take to prevent the dog from biting again.
If the dog is declared to be vicious based on the results from the investigation, the municipality could order it to be euthanized. (Even if this does happen, owners still have the opportunity to appeal the decision and present their case for saving the dog.)
More likely, the owner will be ordered to take additional precautions to prevent future attacks from happening. For example, the owner may have to restrain the dog inside a fence, purchase additional insurance coverage, and microchip the dog for identification purposes. Although these precautions may inconvenience your friend slightly, this is the best outcome. Your friend doesn’t have to lose their pet, no one else will have to suffer a serious attack like you did, and you can still recover compensation from the insurance company.
No one can predict for certain whether a dog will bite again, but it’s wise to assume that there is a good chance it could happen. If you were the one bitten by the dog, keeping your distance from the animal is a good precaution to take.
If you are the dog’s owner, it’s important to speak to experts, like dog trainers and veterinarians, about the attack and what can be done to prevent future incidents. You should also take precautions such as confining the dog in another room when you have company. If your municipality orders you to meet more rigorous requirements to keep your dog, take these obligations seriously. Otherwise, you could lose your dog or personally face penalties if you allow another attack to happen.
Dog bites often leave a scar, which is why it’s so important to get prompt, professional medical care as soon as possible. If you go straight to a hospital where a plastic surgeon is on-staff and able to carefully stitch up your wound, it has a much better chance of healing with minimal scarring than if you attempted to bandage the wound yourself and it didn’t close correctly.
Dog bite scars can fade somewhat, but you may need medical intervention to achieve the best outcome. Surgery, skin grafting, laser treatments and dermabrasion are all possible options for improving the appearance of dog bite scars. The cost of scar revision treatments is one of the expenses you can sue for in a dog bite injury claim.
Statute statute 4:19-16 of New Jersey law refers specifically to matters involving dog bites, not attacks that don’t involve a bite. However, if a pet dog harmed you without biting you, such as with serious scratches or knocking you down, you may have the grounds for a different kind of personal injury claim.
Since the strict liability language of the New Jersey dog bite law won’t apply to a non-biting matter, proving that the owner was negligent will be a more complex matter. Additionally, whether or not you have worth pursuing a claim depends on your injuries.
The law doesn’t allow you to sue for what could have happened, only what actually happened, so you can’t sue on the basis that the dog could have severely injured you if it had bitten. Instead, you would be suing for the actual damages you sustained. If there were no medical bills or lost wages, then you don’t have a case. On the other hand, if the non-biting injury caused consequences just as serious as a significant dog bite would, then you should speak to an attorney.
State law establishes that owners are strictly liable for the harm their dogs cause when biting someone. The state generally does not, however, get involved to force insurance companies to promptly and fully pay the claims of dog bite victims.
Instead, you have to go through the frustrating claims process with the insurance company. If you don’t think the insurer is being fair in handling and paying your claim, your options are to file complaints against them with the State Department of Banking & Insurance and to sue them in a court of law.
Look at it this way: the insurance adjuster handling your claim is a professional at this. They negotiate insurance claim payouts on a daily basis. You’re at a disadvantage here.
Hiring an attorney helps even the playing field, because we are also professionals. We, too, negotiate with insurance companies every day, except our goal is to get the most money possible for the clients we serve. And the reality is that insurance companies are a lot less likely to bring out their worst behavior when handling your claim if they know you have an advocate on your side who knows their tricks and their legal obligations.
In most situations, New Jersey law allows dog bite victims two years to file a lawsuit. However, you shouldn’t wait anywhere near that long to decide whether you want to move forward with a claim or to hire an attorney to represent you.
The earlier you get a lawyer involved in your dog bite claim, the better. We’re in a better position to gather the evidence that supports your claim. We can make sure your injuries, medical costs, lost wages and other damages are documented. We can handle every interaction with the insurance company so you don’t have that burden to bear on top of working toward recovery.
There’s no one right time to make this decision. Some dog bite victims realize within hours that they would be better off getting a lawyer, while others don’t make this decision for days, weeks, or longer.
However, if you’re thinking about legal action, the best thing you can do is give a dog bite lawyer a call and take advantage of a free consultation. This way, you will know your legal rights, your options, and what to expect if you move forward with a claim, instead of wondering about all of the what-ifs.
Yes, if your dog bites someone, you are strictly liable for the injuries they suffer under New Jersey law.
You can be sued for a dog bite, which is why it is important that dog owners have appropriate insurance that covers dog bites. This may include homeowner’s, renter’s, canine liability insurance, or umbrella insurance. You should make sure that your coverage doesn’t exclude dog bites or any breed of dog that you own.
Schedule a free case evaluation with our New Jersey dog bite lawyers by calling (856) 778-5500. We offer free and private consultation, and we’ll answer every question you have. You can get through this, and we can help.