Being attacked by a dog can be a traumatic and costly experience. In addition to physical injuries, you may be faced with medical bills, pain, anxiety, and lost wages. Fortunately, financial compensation is available to help you recover and move on.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, New York ranked fourth in the nation for both the number of dog bite claims (969) and average cost per claim ($77,421) in 2022. The value of your case depends on several factors, including who is most at fault, the extent of your physical and mental injuries, financial losses, and the type of case you are bringing. At Rosenblum Law, we are committed to helping you receive the maximum compensation. For further information, see our extensive article about dog bites and dog-related injuries in New York.
Dog Bite Laws in New York
Many states hold dog owners strictly liable irrespective of their dog’s previous behavior and their care to avoid an attack. However, New York law is more nuanced. There are generally three types of claims that a dog bite victim can pursue.
New York law holds that owners of “dangerous dogs” are strictly liable for any medical costs resulting from a bite. A dangerous dog is defined by the law as a dog that either unjustifiably attacks and injures a person, companion animal, farm animal, domestic animal, or service dog, or behaves in a way that any reasonable person would believe it “poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death” to a person, companion animal, farm animal, domestic animal, or service dog. Because of this strict liability, even if it is the first time the dog has bitten someone, if it has been labeled as a “dangerous dog,” the owner will automatically be held liable for the medical costs of the victim. To pursue other types of damages, the victim will have to bring an additional claim.
New York law does not recognize negligence claims against dog owners; however, in some instances, it is possible to bring a negligence claim against a defendant such as a dog walker, veterinary clinic, etc. This type of claim can compensate the victim for all types of damages, not just medical. To prove negligence, one will have to prove:
- the defendant owed a duty to them,
- that duty was breached by failing to take reasonable care under the circumstances,
- the defendant’s negligence is what caused the injuries,
- and proof of the damages suffered.
Common Law Strict Liability
Another way to recover compensation for other types of damages is to pursue a common law strict liability claim. To do so, the victim must prove that the dog had vicious tendencies and that the owner knew or reasonably should have known of such tendencies. You can also bring this type of claim against a property owner if you were bitten as a result of dangerous conditions on their property. To bring such a claim, you have to prove that the property owner: knew or should have known that the dog was on the premises, knew or should have known that the dog had vicious tendencies, and would have been able to confine or remove the dog.
Factors that Affect Settlement Amounts
The outcome of your dog bite case hinges on several factors, including determining liability, assessing the present and future effects of the bite on your life, and the specific type of legal claim pursued. As mentioned earlier, enlisting the help of a skilled personal injury attorney and a medical expert will aid in arriving at a suitable estimation of your case’s value. Should your case proceed to trial, the ultimate judgment will be made by the judge and jury, taking into account the following considerations:
In instances of dog attacks, it’s important to recognize that both the dog and its owner may not always bear full responsibility. There are situations where the victim intentionally provokes the dog, or their careless actions inadvertently trigger the aggressive response. This notion of comparative fault becomes a significant factor in the court’s deliberation. If the victim is determined to be entirely at fault, the dog owner typically won’t be held accountable. Even in cases where the victim shares partial fault, the dog owner can leverage this aspect to minimize the compensation they are required to pay. Additionally, according to New York law, a dog cannot be deemed dangerous if the dog’s conduct is found to be justified against a threatening person or animal.
The victim’s compensation will cover all monetary losses resulting from the dog bite. This encompasses both past and future medical expenses, and income lost due to hospitalization or recovery time, as well as other relevant costs such as transportation to medical appointments or hiring household assistance.
The law acknowledges that victims of dog bites endure more than just financial losses; there are non-economic damages to consider as well. These may encompass pain, disfigurement, and disability, all of which are eligible to be included in the victim’s compensation.
In exceptional and uncommon instances of severe negligence or deliberate actions, New York law permits punitive charges to be imposed on the dog owner as a means of punishing them rather than solely compensating the victim. Unlike certain other states, New York does not impose a cap on the maximum amount that can be awarded in personal injury cases.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
Similar to any situation that results in injuries, it is crucial to take specific actions promptly after the incident. Your actions in the aftermath can either strengthen or weaken your case if you decide to seek compensation.
Get Medical Attention
In cases of severe injury, the primary step is to promptly seek medical care. If you encounter deep cuts, broken bones, heavy bleeding, or any life-threatening condition, do not hesitate to contact emergency services. Similarly, if you observe any signs of infection, such as a fever, it’s essential to consult a physician without delay. Seeking medical attention for any open cuts is also crucial to prevent diseases like rabies and other infections.
Notably, immediate medical attention is important because insurance agencies and defendants may attempt to argue that your injuries were not severe if you delay seeking help, potentially harming your case. Furthermore, it’s crucial to diligently follow your doctor’s instructions and properly care for your injuries. Failure to adhere to the prescribed treatment plan could adversely impact your compensation. Keeping detailed records of all medical expenses related to your injuries is highly recommended.
Identify the Owner: If the owner is present at the scene, make sure to record their name and contact details. Additionally, try to gather information about the dog, including whether its vaccinations are up-to-date. However, exercise caution and avoid engaging in lengthy conversations with the owner, refraining from saying anything that might be used against you in a potential claim. In New York, identifying the owner is pivotal for securing compensation. If, on the other hand, the owner is not present during the incident, and you face difficulties in identifying them, consider seeking assistance from the police or local animal control. They may be able to help you in this matter.
Get Contact Information from Any Witnesses: In case you need to file a claim, having access to bystanders who witnessed the attack can be beneficial. Try to obtain their contact information, but remember not to discuss the specifics of the attack or accept responsibility in any manner. Keeping the conversation focused on obtaining their contact details will help preserve the integrity of your potential claim.
Gather Visual Evidence: Gather visual evidence to strengthen your case, which should include photographs of your injuries and any resulting scarring. Capture images or videos of the scene of the attack, as well as any relevant items such as blood-stained or torn clothing. This comprehensive evidence will play a crucial role in convincing the court of the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Write Down Your Account of the Events: Recording a detailed account of the incident while it’s fresh in your memory can significantly aid in accurately explaining the event to your lawyer or the court. Include as many specific details as possible, even seemingly insignificant information could have a significant impact on your case. To further support your claim, consider maintaining a journal to document the progression of your physical and mental well-being after the attack. This documentation can serve as evidence of how the injuries have affected your life.
Report the Incident: In the event of a dog bite, it is crucial to immediately report the incident to the local animal control office. Regardless of whether you have the owner’s contact information, filing an original report can serve as vital evidence for your case. Moreover, reporting the attack enables authorities to monitor dangerous dogs, potentially preventing future attacks and ensuring public safety.
Contact a Lawyer
The New York statute of limitations generally allows dog victims 3 years from the date of the incident to file a case. Still, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to keep on top of additional deadlines that may apply from insurance companies and to have enough time to investigate and build a strong case. See more information in our article about pursuing a dog bite lawsuit in New York.
Case Law Analysis
Flora v. Ramsay
- A mother brought suit on behalf of her minor son who was bitten by defendants’ pitbull when they were at defendants’ residence
- The boy was bitten multiple times in the face, head, and arms and suffered facial and scalp lacerations
- The parties reached a settlement for $500,000 as compensatory damages for the boy’s medical expenses
A.W. v. County of Onondaga
- A 9-year-old female was visiting an animal shelter with her mom when she sustained dog bite injuries to her face after she was bit by a dog held on a leash by a volunteer
- She claimed that the volunteer had failed to take safety precautions, that they failed to warn of a potential danger of a dog with a history of aggression, and claimed other related negligence by the volunteer and the shelter
- The parties reached an agreement for $600,000 in compensatory damages
Wilt v. Montvel-Cohen
- An adult female was walking on a public sidewalk in Brooklyn when she was bit by a dog owned by defendants and sustained injuries to the outside portion of her right thigh
- The dog owners were deemed to be strictly liable for the dog and the jury awarded her $150,000 for past pain and suffering and $100,000 for future pain and suffering
Yamali v. Nuez
- A 76-year-old woman was visiting the home of her daughter when her daughter’s dog attacked her
- She sustained numerous dog bite injuries to her neck, chest, arms, face, and hands which required surgery and left numerous scars
- Woman recovered $500,000 after claiming the defendant was negligent and failed to warn her and take necessary precautions with regards to the dog’s aggressive tendencies
M.M. v. Barisic
- A minor child was bitten by a dog that was brought to a playground and allowed to be off leash in an area where no dogs were allowed
- He suffered significant facial scarring and disfigurement
- A settlement was reached for $601,000, with $600,000 to be paid by defendant’s insurance policy and $1,000 from the owner for payment of medical expenses
When to File a Lawsuit in NY
In most personal injury cases, reaching a pre-trial settlement is the preferred outcome, benefiting both parties by avoiding the costs and time associated with a court trial. However, if negotiations fail to yield a fair resolution, it might be prudent to consider taking your claim to court. To make this decision, consider the following factors:
Your Likelihood of Winning the Case
Consult your lawyer to assess the merits of your case. If they believe you have a strong case and settlement discussions prove unfruitful, proceeding with a lawsuit may be a reasonable option.
The Compensation You Deserve
Rely on your lawyer’s expertise to determine the appropriate amount of compensation you deserve. If the dog owner or their insurer offers significantly less than your lawyer’s assessment, pursuing a lawsuit could be justified.
How Urgently You Need the Compensation
External circumstances may impact your decision-making. If you urgently need compensation, agreeing to an offer might be necessary to expedite the process. On the other hand, going to court could prolong the case if the other party resists. Collaborate with your lawyer to devise the best strategy, as settling too early could result in leaving money on the table.
How We Can Help
By now, it should be evident that pursuing a settlement or lawsuit on your own can be challenging. At Rosenblum Law, we fully understand the profound impact a dog attack can have on your life. When you choose our services, we take the burden off your shoulders and provide comprehensive assistance to secure the maximum compensation you deserve. Here are the main things we will do:
- Thorough Investigation: We will conduct a meticulous investigation of your case to pinpoint the parties legally responsible for the incident.
- Built a Strong Case: Our team will construct a persuasive claim that clearly illustrates to the accused wrongdoers the potential losses they may face in court.
- Skillful Negotiation: We will expertly negotiate a settlement, if applicable, ensuring you receive the maximum compensation.
- Communication Management: All communications and negotiations with third parties, including insurance companies, will be handled by us on your behalf.
- Legal Guidance: We will navigate through complex court procedures and fulfill all the necessary legal requirements, ensuring a smooth process for you.
At Rosenblum Law, we are dedicated to providing you with the support and representation you need to achieve the best possible outcome for your dog bite case. Contact us for a freeconsultation at 888-815-3649 or via e-mail to start on your path to financial recovery.
Many homeowner and renter policies provide coverage for dog bites that occur at their residences. You may also be eligible for coverage from a general liability policy, or a business liability policy if the incident occurred at a business. Some pet owners also own pet liability insurance, which is more likely to cover their dog if it is known to be an aggressive breed. Keep in mind that insurance companies are trying their best to look out for their interests. You shouldn’t sign any forms or give any statements until you’ve spoken with your lawyer.
If you’ve been bitten by a friend’s or relative’s dog, you may be reluctant to pursue a claim. However, you will most likely be paid by an insurance company, rather than directly by your friend or relative, and getting compensation for your losses is usually crucial to moving forward with your life. Even if your friend’s or relative’s insurance will not cover your injuries, it is still worth getting a free consultation with a personal injury attorney who can inform you of all the facts and advise you on your next steps.
When a person is injured in a dog attack, immediate family members may have the opportunity to seek compensation for the loss of companionship and other family benefits that were affected by the incident. In the tragic event of a loved one’s death due to a dog attack, you might be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This claim could enable you to pursue damages to cover funeral expenses, loss of companionship, as well as lost income and benefits.
It is crucial to reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible to gather the necessary evidence and initiate the lawsuit before any deadlines expire. While money can never fully compensate for the loss experienced, it can offer some semblance of justice and financial stability during such difficult times.