Dog Bite Attorneys in Westfield, New Jersey
The trauma that an individual may experience a result of a dog bite attack will often last far longer than the initial cuts, bruising and wounds. In many instances, the victim is left with unsightly scarring and may develop long-lasting psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and/or fear of animals. The victim can also face an unwarranted fear of his or her own pet after the attack. Unfortunately, there are many dog owners in the State of New Jersey who fail to take simple, yet adequate steps to prevent their dog or dogs from biting others.
Understanding the Risks Associated With Dog Bites in New Jersey
Although dogs are notoriously known for being great pets, they can oftentimes pose a threat to people they are not accustomed to. According to data collected by dogsbite.org, a 2005 to 2017 report demonstrated the following:
- -Approximately 40 canine bite-related casualties happened in 2017.
- -During this time period, dogs caused the deaths of over 400 Americans.
- -In 2017, approximately 50% of all canine bite casualties involved more than one dog.
- -Approximately 69% of the attacks that occurred in 2017 happened when the victim was in/on the canine owner’s property.
- -Of the attacks that occurred in 2017, 8 fatal bites led to substantial criminal charges.
Even when a dog bite does not have a fatal consequence, the injuries can nonetheless be dangerous. In addition to causing serious injuries, canine bites can lead to serious infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 60 different types of bacteria that can be found in a canine’s mouth. Some of these germs can lead to the following diseases:
Rabies - Rabies is a very serious disease a person can obtain after being bitten by a dog. While the disease itself is rare, the rabies virus has the capability of affecting the victim’s brain. In many cases the injury is fatal once the symptoms become apparent.
Capnocytophaga Bacteria - This type of bacteria will not make the pet sick but can cause illness to the person that has been bitten. This type of bacteria can be particularly threatening to individuals with weakened immune systems.
Pasteurella - Pasteurella is a type of bacteria that is often found in infected dog bite injuries. Symptoms of infection will often demonstrate redness and pain at the site and difficulty moving.
Tetanus - Tetanus is a toxin that can cause paralysis in those with serious and deep bite injuries.
Canine injuries can oftentimes cause debilitating consequences and it is important to know that victims have the right to seek financial compensation for their injuries. When it comes to dog bites in New Jersey, however, it will always be difficult to determine the severity of a dog bite when it occurs. Because of this, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as the injury happens. Failing or delaying medical attention can invalidate a personal injury claim in New Jersey, ultimately affecting the possibility of receiving compensation for the damages.
State of New Jersey – Dog Bite Liability Law
The State of New Jersey is among the many states that will make a pet owner legally responsible for the damages inflicted upon an animal bite victim. The state recognizes the serious nature of dog bites and has created a statute specifically designed to hold the owner of dog liable when their dog bites another individual. N.J.S.A. 4:19-16 specifically states: The owner of a dog which bites a person is legally responsible if:
- -The victim can establish who owned the dog;
- -The victim was in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog;
- -The victim was actually bitten.
If all 3 of these elements are established, the dog’s owner(s) shall be strictly liable for all physical and emotional damages suffered by the victim, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. This holds true whether or not the dog was a trained security dog, was trained in fighting or was simply a neighbor’s family pet with no history of violence.
New Jersey Canine Owner Negligence – Dog Bite Claims
Every dog, regardless of size, has the potential to injure a person without actually biting. This could happen by chasing a cyclist and causing an accident or by knocking a pedestrian over. In these types of situations, New Jersey’s strict liability law will not necessarily be applicable. Instead, an injured victim may still be able to recover financial compensation if he or she can demonstrate that his or her injuries were caused by the pet owner’s negligence. In order to file a personal injury lawsuit on the basis of negligence, the victim will need to prove the following elements:
- -The canine owner has the duty to take reasonable care in the control of the animal’s behavior.
- -The canine owner failed to meet the duty of reasonable care.
- -The resulting factor of this failure caused injuries to the victim.
When it comes to personal injury claims based on negligence, demonstrating a dog’s record of aggressive behavior may be significant. Demonstrating this could help the court make a determination on what qualifies as an animal owner’s “reasonable” duty of care. For example, if a canine has never demonstrated signs of aggression prior to the attack, the court may find that walking the dog with a leash is sufficient in the owner’s approach to controlling the animal. On the contrary, if a canine has a track record of being aggressive towards others, a court might find that a dog walked with just a leash and not a muzzle is insufficient in the owner’s efforts of preventing an injury.
After a Dog Bite, Fight for Your Rights – Speak to a Qualified New Jersey Dog Bite Attorney Who Will Represent You
After suffering from a dog bite, many people simply do not know what to do and are left wondering: “Who is responsible for paying my medical bills?” “Should I file a police report or contact animal control?” “Should I report the bite to the dog owner’s insurance company?” “What do I do if I do not know who owned the dog?” If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, you should immediately contact an attorney in New Jersey to help guide you through this traumatic time and make sure that you fully understand your legal rights. The insurance company knows their legal rights and has attorneys waiting to defend their rights and so should you.
At Harrell, Smith & Williams, LLC., we are experienced and proficient in handling all types of dog bite matters and offer free legal consultations to answer any of your questions or concerns. Call us at (908) 543-7037 for a free consultation.
Our lawyers will also represent you in civil litigation cases such as Work Compensation, Medical Malpractice and much more.