A nice jog in the park or a romantic moonlight stroll can be quickly ruined by a menacing dog. Sometimes a dog’s bark is worse than its bite, but sometimes a dog will actually bite you.
If a dog has attacked you, the first step is to take care of and document your injury. Seek medical attention right away. Take a picture of the bite area. Record when and where the incident occurred, and describe the attacking canine.
After these steps, you can start to find out whether you qualify for legal compensation. Learn about dog-bite law in New York and the process of working with a personal injury lawyer, and receive the payment you deserve.
Getting Started with an Attorney
Your personal injury lawyer in New York will meet with you to gather as much information as possible. By taking an individualized approach to your incident, your attorney will gauge how much physical and emotional injury you currently have and will yet endure. Then, he or she will outline your options for pursuing compensation. The lawyer may suggest that you press charges, levy a lawsuit, or agree to a settlement with the dog’s owner.
If it is believed that the attacking dog will repeat aggressive behavior, the case might involve animal services or law enforcement personnel.
Out-of-court settlement is common with these cases. However, if you cannot determine the dog owner or if the owner denies your accusations, a local court trial may ensue. The success of your case depends on your ability to convince a judge and jury that you are the victim and that you did nothing out of the ordinary to provoke the dog. If there are any eyewitnesses to your injury, get their contact information and strengthen your case with another perspective.
Throughout the legal process, make sure you clearly communicate with your attorney. Keep him or her abreast of any changes to your medical situation. Keep track of both the expenses and the monetary losses you incur. The more evidence and documentation you compile, the more likely you will be satisfied with the outcome of your legal proceedings.
The “One-Bite” Rule
In many states, dog-bite victims simply need to show that they were bitten by the dog without provoking the animal or trespassing in the area.
New York is not one of these states. Not only that, New York practices the “one-bite” rule, where the owner is not responsible if he or she didn’t know the dog was dangerous. The owner would be aware of the situation after one bite, hence the name of this policy.
If you are seeking compensation, you and your attorney must prove that the owner knew about the dog’s violent tendencies. The court could hold a dog owner accountable if he or she knew about any of the following situations:
The dog has a previous history of biting people.
The dog barks, growls, or otherwise threatens people in a public setting.
A large, playful dog tends to knock people over when jumping to greet them.
The owner or another individual trained the dog to fight.
Neighbors, friends, or others have complained about the dog.
The state has classified the dog’s breed (e.g. a pit bull) as dangerous or vicious.
Many exceptions could keep the owner from assuming responsibility. For example, in the case Tessiero v. Conrad, the state of New York determined that a puppy nipping someone does not make the owner aware that the dog is dangerous.
If the dog already has a history of biting people, or if the owner suspected the dog’s dangerous nature, you still need to prove that the owner did not take measures to protect others from the animal. “Omission of reasonable care” is the legal term for proving negligence on the part of the dog owner. For example, a negligent dog owner might not:
Put a fence around his or her home to protect passersby
Post a “Beware of Dog” or similar warning sign
Keep the dog away from or on a leash in public areas
By documenting details about the injury, including where and how it occurred, you and your attorney can build a strong case for lack of reasonable care. The court will decide whether the owner acted responsibly.
Ready to pursue compensation for your injuries? Contact a personal injury lawyer today. One phone call begins the path to justice.