The dog biting the mailman may be a cliche, but there’s an unsettling amount of truth to it. Mail and package delivery professionals are at high risk of being bitten. On every trip they make from the truck to a residence, they’re risking their safety.
Dog owners in New Jersey need to recognize the risks dogs can pose to mail carriers, package delivery workers, and other couriers and to take steps to stop one of these avoidable injuries from happening.
You would never have expected your beloved family pet to get vicious with anyone, but the unimaginable has happened. Your dog has bitten a courier. Now what?
If your dog bites a courier, the very first thing that needs to happen is putting a stop to the attack. Get the dog restrained somewhere safe, where it can’t harm anyone else.
Call 911 and ask for emergency medical personnel if there is any chance that the bite victim is badly injured. Dog bites can leave victims with lifelong injuries and may even be fatal, so it’s important not to underestimate the harm a dog bite can cause.
The dog bite must be reported to the authorities—it’s a public health matter. Call the police to report a serious dog bite, and call animal control to advise you of what steps need to be taken next. You will likely have to fill out some paperwork, like the NJ Department of Health’s Notice of Bite and Confinement of Animal form.
Workers injured while on the job are generally required to report the dog bite to their employer promptly, so don’t be surprised if the postal worker or package delivery worker calls their employer from the scene of the attack (if they are well enough to do so).
If the victim declined an examination and treatment by emergency medical technicians, they should seek medical care as soon as possible in the emergency room, an urgent care facility, or their physician’s office. Any doctor who treats a dog bite wound is legally required to report the bite to the health department under New Jersey law (N.J.S.A. 26:4-79).
Depending on the unique circumstances of the dog bite, you may be responsible for paying for the victim’s medical expenses through your homeowners or renters insurance coverage. It’s important to notify your insurance company of this incident right away so that a claim can be opened.
A person injured on your property, including a mail carrier or package delivery worker bitten by your pet dog, may be entitled to compensation through your homeowners insurance or renters insurance coverage. New Jersey’s strict liability dog bite law means that a dog’s owner is automatically responsible for the harm it causes through a bite, regardless of whether the dog has a history of biting or aggression.
Be ready to cooperate and provide your insurance policy information to the victim (or a legal representative of the victim). Notify your insurance company of the incident.
Remember that circumstances like this are the reason you have insurance. As long as there is no reason that your insurance policy is not valid in this incident (such as lying to your insurer about having a dog), your insurance company is required to indemnify you according to the terms of your policy, which constitutes a legally binding contract.
The insurer will appoint an attorney to represent you at no charge to you. This service is included in the premiums you pay for coverage. The insurance company must pay the claim up to the limits of your policy (again, assuming the incident constitutes a covered event and your policy is valid) or risk being held accountable for acting in bad faith. Cooperate with your insurance company. If you are contacted by the victim’s employer or attorney or receive any medical bills for the victim, notify your insurance company at once.
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In rare cases that involve particularly vicious attacks, the dog’s owner may face criminal charges. If that happens, you should seek the services of a criminal defense attorney.
Any criminal charges against you are separate matters from a civil claim for compensation. You can be sued for compensation for a dog bite even if you aren’t criminally charged over the incident or if you are found not guilty.
Generally speaking, most dog bite claim payouts in New Jersey are made by insurance carriers, not individuals. It’s unlikely that you will have to pay out of pocket for the dog bite victim’s damages. However, this outcome is more likely if you don’t have insurance coverage, especially if you have financial assets to go after. That’s why it’s important to have insurance coverage.
You may, however, face financial consequences like the following:
If you have applicable insurance, your dog biting someone is not likely to lead you to financial ruin, but it still is a big deal. Dog bites can be avoided when owners take the proper procedures, and doing so is always better than having to face the consequences, financial and otherwise, of a serious dog bite incident.
Let’s assume that the dog chased and bit the mail carrier, and you (or someone else) were able to stop the attack immediately and confine the dog where it presented no further danger.
Typically, a dog that bites needs to be confined, quarantined, and examined to test for any signs of rabies or other communicable diseases, as well as to investigate whether the dog displays a pattern of vicious behavior. Confinement and observation may be permitted to take place at home in some circumstances, although in other circumstances, the dog may be removed from the home during this time and confined elsewhere at your expense.
If the attack was so vicious that the dog could only be separated from its victim by force, the dog might be harmed or killed in an effort to stop the attack as quickly as possible. This unfortunate situation is rare, but it can happen—which is one more reason to take all of the necessary steps to prevent a bite from happening in the first place.
Can an accident that results in a dog bite get the dog killed? Although this sad outcome is possible, most of the time, a dog will not be euthanized or “put down” because of a bite incident that takes place in New Jersey unless the attack was extremely aggressive or vicious.
Under New Jersey law, a dog may be ordered to be euthanized “in a humane and expeditious manner” if two conditions are met:
Declaring the dog vicious requires the municipality to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the dog either killed or “caused serious bodily injury” to a human and that the dog was not provoked. NJ law specifically states that a dog “shall not be declared vicious for inflicting death or serious bodily injury upon a person if the dog was provoked.”
If an appeal is filed, the dog cannot be euthanized while the legal proceedings are pending. Only if the owner loses the appeal can the court-ordered euthanization be legally undertaken, and only after the full appeals process is complete.
Even if a dog is declared vicious, it does not necessarily mean that the dog must be put down. New Jersey law gives the municipal court the option to order that the owner of a dog determined to be vicious “comply with certain restrictions to protect the public.” These restrictions typically include building a secure enclosure, putting up warning signage on your property, keeping the dog muzzled, applying for a specific vicious or potentially dangerous dog license, and carrying additional liability insurance in case another attack should occur.
Every day, mail and package delivery workers are bitten by dogs while making deliveries.
USPS carrier dog bites are so common that, statistically speaking, nearly 15 dog bites occurred every single day of the calendar year in 2021.
The USPS only publishes dog bite data by state for the 10 states where the most incidents occurred in a given year. New Jersey wasn’t among the top 10 states for occurrences of USPS mail carrier dog bites for 2021, but the state ranked 9th in the nation for dog bites of postal workers in 2019 and 2020, with 169 and 179 incidents reported, respectively.
Dog bites are a major cause for concern for the United Parcel Service, as well. Although UPS doesn’t publish dog bite statistics annually, as the USPS does, the New York Post reported in 2017 that around 900 workers had sustained dog bites over the past year.
As a result, some of the tasks performed by the UPS’s nearly 3,300 safety committees include working to prevent dog bites and maintaining a database of the map locations of known potentially dangerous dogs.
FedEx does not publish data on the number of dog bites sustained by its workers, according to PBS NewsHour. There have, however, been instances of dog attacks on FedEx delivery workers published in news stories nationwide in recent years.
For example, in 2021, a FedEx worker in Kampsville, IL, was attacked by two dogs while their owners were away from home, local news source KSDK-TV reported. He ultimately had to have his left wrist and hand amputated due to his injuries, according to Newsweek. In 2020, a FedEx driver was attacked by a “pack” of dogs while delivering a package to a Terlton, OK, home, according to local news source Newson6.
The largest mail and package carrier and courier companies in NJ, including USPS, UPS, and FedEx, are also the companies whose workers are most likely to sustain dog bites based on the sheer number of deliveries they make.
Other courier, package delivery, and shipping companies whose workers are at risk of sustaining dog bites while on the job in New Jersey include:
The serious consequences that can arise from courier and mail carrier dog bites and the sheer extent of the problem make one thing perfectly clear: preventing dog bites from happening in the first place is better than dealing with the aftermath.
If you haven’t yet had a dog bite incident occur—if, for example, you’re interested in the subject because you had a close call or read a news story about such an attack—here are some steps you can take to make sure your dog doesn’t bite a mail or package delivery worker.
Be alert to the risks of dog bites, even if your dog is generally friendly and non-aggressive. Many dog bite incidents involve dogs that, according to their owners, “don’t bite.” Even good, friendly dogs with no history of aggression can get startled, overprotective, or territorial at times and bite or otherwise harm a human. When a mail carrier or package delivery worker approaches your house, knocks on your door, or rings your doorbell, the dog may incorrectly perceive these actions as a threat and act in ways that differ from its usual friendly behavior.
Taking the few extra minutes to make sure that your dog does not have the opportunity to harm a mail carrier or package delivery worker, even if you truly don’t think your pet would ever do so, is always worthwhile. These small, simple precautions protect couriers, your dog, and your family as a whole.
If you were the victim of a dog bite, rather than the owner of the biting dog, the first thing you need to know is that you may be entitled to compensation or benefits. Make sure you take the critical first steps to protect yourself and your legal rights. Report the dog bite to the authorities and your employer. Seek medical care immediately, and follow your doctor’s recommendations and treatment plan.
Dog bite claims can be complicated, especially when you were on the job at the time of the attack. Depending on the unique circumstances of your situation, you might be eligible for the following:
Determining whether you qualify for workers’ comp benefits and, if so, how to proceed when your case involves both types of claims is complicated. Speaking to an attorney at no cost can help you simplify the next steps so you can have the benefits you need to make the best possible physical recovery. For a free consultation with our experienced dog bite lawyers, call (866) 778-5500 today.