What Are New Jersey’s Dog Bite Laws?

A dog attack is one of the most terrifying and traumatic experiences a human can endure. Sadly, the most common victims of dog bites are children and the elderly, though anyone can easily become a victim. Although we love our furry best friends, it’s critical to recognize that dogs are animals and sometimes act out with instincts that we can’t fully anticipate and motives we don’t understand. When a dog bites a person in New Jersey, the state’s strict liability laws leave the dog’s owner liable for damages. “Damages” in a dog bite claim refers to all consequences of the attack, including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Sometimes additional damages apply to dog bite cases in New Jersey, such as compensation for disfigurement.

How do dog bite victims in New Jersey hold dog owners accountable? The Cherry Hill personal injury lawyers at Cuneo & Leonetti are prepared to help.

Understanding Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws

Most personal injury claims in New Jersey and elsewhere require injury victims to prove negligent actions on the part of the person or business entity at fault. For dog bites in New Jersey, the state’s strict liability laws for pet owners mean that a dog’s owner becomes accountable for the dog’s actions the moment they take ownership of their pet. Because pet owners have strict liability, a New Jersey dog bite victim doesn’t have to prove that the owner was careless, reckless, or negligent. Instead, the victim of a dog attack in New Jersey only needs to prove the following to recover compensation:

  • That the dog bite occurred (even if it didn’t break the skin)
  • That the dog has an owner
  • If the bite occurred on the dog owner’s property, the victim must show that they were legally on the property and not trespassing or committing a crime during the time the bite occurred

With strict liability laws for dog bites in New Jersey, even when an owner takes reasonable measures to restrain or confine a dog, they are still liable for the damages if their dog bites. The state also requires dogs who’ve bitten a victim to undergo quarantine for 10 days at the owner’s expense while an animal control officer evaluates the dog’s health.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

An estimated 80,000 dog bites occur in the United States every year. Dogs have different instincts and reactions than people and sometimes differ between breeds. Dog bites typically occur for the following reasons:

  • Aggressive dominance, or attempting to exert dominance over a human
  • Biting due to fear
  • Territorial biting to protect “their” territory or favorite items
  • Aggressive food protection
  • Aggression due to pain or illness
  • Protecting puppies
  • Redirected aggression when a human attempts to break up a dog fight

Understanding the reasons dogs sometimes bite can help victims avoid future bites. However, in New Jersey, even when a dog has no previous history of biting, the owner is still liable for damages. Some states have a “one-bite” law that exempts dog owners from liability the first time a dog bites under the premise that the owner couldn’t know the dog was aggressive until after the first bite. However, New Jersey pet owners are liable for damages the first time a dog bites with no exemptions.

Compensation Available for Dog Bite Injuries in New Jersey

Dogs have sharp-edged, jagged teeth that work like serrated blades. Dog bite injuries may puncture the skin and/or penetrate into deep tissue like muscles and ligaments. Because a biting dog often shakes the body part they are biting, bite injuries may go beyond punctures and cause tears, bruises, and even bone fractures. Common damages claimed in New Jersey dog attack claims include the following:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Temporary or permanent disability resulting in diminished earning capacity
  • Emotional trauma

Victims of dog bites in New Jersey often suffer severe emotional trauma as well as physical injuries. A successful dog bite claim cannot erase the physical and emotional injuries to the victim, but it provides financial compensation and a sense of justice. Contact a Cherry Hill dog bite attorney today for help navigating your legal case and circumstances.