New York Dog Bite Laws & Owner Liability Rules

America is a pet-friendly country. 

A 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey by American Pets Products Association (APPA) indicates that dogs are the most popular pets in many American households. According to the report, 67% of US households own a dog. With so many dogs in the country, it's just a matter of time before you or someone you know is bitten by a dog. 

Unfortunately, kids aged 5-9 years are the most common dog-bite victims. Worst still, the attacks happen by a dog familiar to the victim. And although all dog bites can be lethal, elderly victims are at the highest risk of injury or death in a dog-related attack.

Can I Sue for a Dog Bite in New York?

Understanding dog bite laws in New York is important if you or a loved one gets bitten by a dog. 

New York is a mixed state, and dog bite provisions are included in county, state, and city laws. 

Dog bite litigation falls under a personal injury lawsuit. Therefore, dog bite accident attorneys work on contingency other than asking for an upfront retainer fee. They, therefore, take solid cases only and offer a professional opinion about the possible outcome of your dog bite case. If you or your loved one gets bitten by a dog, look for a New York personal injury lawyer who understands dog bite cases. 

Once you get bitten, you should identify the dog owner and get their name and address. This information will help you preserve your right to sue in case the bite incurs expensive medical treatment. It also helps your doctor determine whether you require a series of painful and costly vaccination to prevent rabies. 

For instance, after a dog bite in New York City, the dog owner is allowed 10 days of observing the dog for any signs of rabies. If no symptoms are visible for those 10 days, you are clear of any fatal complications. If the bite is from a stray dog, animal control officers may take the dog for observation. They may also request you or someone else to monitor the dog at its usual hangouts. 

After medical attention for your injuries, you should report the incident to the local authorities such as the sheriff, police department, or the local animal control. For example, in New York City, all animal bites are reported to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

When building your case against the dog owner, you need to document all the incident details, including any damaged personal properties. You should include any lost wages due to the time spent in the hospital getting treatment or therapy for the injuries. Take photographs of the injuries, torn clothes, or any damaged property. You should also look for a witness and their contact information.

One Bite Rule vs. Strict Liability for Damages in New York Dog Bite Cases

The dog bite law in New York combines the one-bite rule with a limited degree of strict liability rule. 

The one-bite rule lets the dog owner off the hook if the dog causes harm for the first time. In this case, the owner is not responsible if they are unaware of the dog's ability to cause harm. 

The strict liability rule states that the owner needs to shoulder the responsibility for all harm caused by the dog, regardless of whether they knew the dog was dangerous or not. 

According to these laws, the owner needs to interpret certain actions by the dog to determine whether it's dangerous or not. For instance, actions such as jumping on people, fighting with other dogs, and barking fiercely can signify that the dog can cause harm. 

New York dog bite laws state that an owner of a previously adjudicated "dangerous" dog is strictly liable for the victims' medical or veterinary costs. In addition, if the dog causes any other damages, the victim has to prove that the dog had a dangerous tendency of attacking people, and the owner was aware. 

For example, if a dog owner fails to leash the dog and it runs off and bites you, you might be able to sue the owner. In this case, you need to prove that the owner's carelessness led to the injury and any other damage caused by the dog.

Exceptions in the Rules

Dog bites are more likely to trigger a lawsuit. However, the New York dog bite laws have legal protections that defend dog owners in certain circumstances. The exceptions apply if:

The Dog Was Defending Its Home Against Trespassers

If the dog bit when trespassing, the legal basis of the lawsuit determines the final rule. For instance, most courts and juries will not hold the dog owner liable in the one-bite rule if you were bitten when trespassing. 

In other cases, the court may decide to use the old legal law that makes the landowner liable only if they failed to warn trespassers of the possible danger on their property. However, if the victim is a child, the property owner is responsible whether there was a sign or not.

The Dog Was Protecting Its Owner or Puppies

Any danger the dog causes if it bites you when defending its owner or offspring is deemed justified.

The Dog is Reacting to Pain or Suffering

The law excuses any injuries caused by a dog that was reacting to pain or suffering. This applies if the dog, a person, or an animal it knows was threatened or harmed.

The Dog was Provoked Either by Torment, Abuse, or Assault

The dog owner would be off the hook if you provoked the dog into biting you. The provocation can be in the form of teasing or hitting the dog. There are several situations when the court provokes the owners' liability, including:

  • If you intervened in a dog fight
  • Accidentally stepped on the dog's tail
  • Petting a strange dog
  • Spraying the dog with a repellant in self-defense

New York's Dog Bite Statute for Dangerous Dogs

There are some dog bite cases where the owner is charged with a misdemeanor. According to the New York Agriculture and Markets code, you may file a dog bite case if:

  • The owner's negligence led to the dog biting someone
  • If the dog was previously adjudicated as a "dangerous dog."
  • The dog caused severe injuries

Injuries are termed severe if they cause death, permanent disfigurement, impairment, or loss of body parts. If the dog overcomes the owner and causes death, the owner will be charged with a misdemeanor. 

New York's dog bite statute states that a dangerous dog owner or custodian is liable for medical or veterinary costs if the dog injures a person, an animal, or a companion animal such as a disability service dog. The statute defines a dangerous dog as one that:

  • Behaves in a way that would make any reasonable person believe that it poses a serious threat 
  • Attacks and injures or kills a person or an animal without any justifiable reason

Landlord Liability for Dog Bite Injuries in New York

There are certain circumstances where the landlord is held liable if you suffer a dog bite or injury in an apartment building in New York. This happens if the injuries occurred as a result of dangerous conditions on their property. 

The dog bite liability is attached to the landlord if they knew that a tenant's dog was dangerous but failed to take action. However, you need to provide evidence that the landlord knew that the dog was dangerous. In this case, you have to prove that the landlord:

  • Knew or should have known about the dogs' viscous behaviour
  • Was previously provided with a notice that the dog had attacked someone 
  • They Ignored any steps to remove the dog from the building

Letting the dog remain in the building after attacking someone automatically holds the landlord liable. However, if the landlord is not responsible, you may still get compensation for your injuries from the dog owner.

How Much Time Do You Have to File for a Lawsuit for a Dog Bite in New York?

The New York dog bite law has a statute of limitations. The statute requires that you file the dog bite lawsuit within three years from the date of the bite. Failing to file within the timeframe might force the court to bar you from filing at all. If you feel that the dog owner of the landlord was liable for the injury, pay attention and abide by this statute of limitation.

Speak With a New York Dog Bite Lawyer Today

If ever you or someone you know gets bitten by a dog, your first step after medical attention should be to seek free consultation from a New York dog bite lawyer. At Raphaelson Levine, we are a team of dedicated attorneys that strive to win cases on behalf of our clients.

Contact us today to discuss your legal rights by calling 212-268-3222 if you suffer a personal injury such as a dog bite because of someone's negligence.

Sources
Howard Raphaelson
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Established in New York, NY, his personal injury law firm has obtained numerous million-dollar verdicts. With over twenty-five years of experience as a personal injury attorney, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).
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