There are three varieties of dog bite liability laws in the United States and an understanding of all three is informative in understanding how liability can attach in a New Jersey dog bite case. The most conservative variety of dog bite law imposes liability solely based on principals of negligence. An individual is liable for an attack or bite if they acted unreasonably or carelessly in allowing the incident to occur. In this instance, the conduct of the defendant is measured in accordance with the reasonable person standard. If a reasonable person acting under similar circumstances would have prevented the attack then liability shall attach. The second variety of dog bite law is the one bite rule, that is to say, an individual is liable if his or her dog committed at least one prior attack or bite. If it is established that a prior bite occurred, the owner of the dog is deemed to be on notice of the dangerous propensity of the dog and any subsequent bite gives rise to liability. The third variety of dog bite law, which is the one utilized in New Jersey, imposes strict liability on dog owners.
Strict Liability For A Dog Bite In New Jersey
The New Jersey Dog Bite Law is set forth at N.J.S.A. 4:19-16. This statute renders the owner of a dog liable for injuries suffered as a result of his dog biting a person in a public place or while lawfully on private property. The statute further clarifies that a person is lawfully on private property consistent with the dog bite law if he occupies the property by invitation or in lawful performance of his duties. What should immediately be noted from the statute is that there is no incorporation of a negligence or one bite rule, and that liability attaches irrespective of the prior behavior (e.g. viciousness) of the dog.
A condition to strict liability under the NJ Dog Bite Law is ownership of the dog which caused the injuries. The statute does not apply to non-owners, such as a landlord. It must be kept in mind, nonetheless, that whenever a duty of care exists between individuals, traditional negligence law applies. Therefore, while a non-owner, such as a landlord, cannot be held strictly liable under the dog bite statute, he can be held liable under negligence theory. Neither strict liability nor negligence law apply, however, to trespassers as no duty of care is generally owed to individuals who enter property without a right to do so. A similar exception to liability exists under NJ law for individuals who tease or torment a dog leading to an attack. The theory here being that the dog bite victim provoked the dog to bite.
Experienced Statewide Dog Bite Attorneys
Our firm has extensive experience litigating dog and animal bite cases in New Jersey and one of our NJ Dog Bite Attorneys would be happy to answer any detailed questions you may possess. Dog bite cases are handled by our NJ law firm on a contingent fee basis, that is to say, no legal fee is owed unless a recovery is made on behalf of our client. One of our lawyers is available to speak to you immediately and initial consultations are without charge.