As readers are well aware, man's best friend is not always friendly. In some cases, owning a dog is positively dangerous and puts others at risk of injury and oneself at risk of liability. To ensure safety, the New Jersey Department of Health has various requirements for dog owners and kennels, which includes licensing and registration, rabies inoculation, and required reporting of suspected cases of rabies.
Compensating victims of dog attacks is an issue that we take seriously. Determining liability for a dog attack varies from state to state, of course, with some states using a negligence standard and others using a strict liability standard. The difference between the two is that strict liability holds a dog owner accountable for injuries regardless of whether they could have prevented the attack or not.
Under the negligence approach, the owner must have known the dog was dangerous, either because of a previous attack or because of the dog's aggressive character, sometimes referred to as "dangerous propensity."Here in New Jersey, dog owners are strictly liable for dog attacks, which makes it easier for dog attack victims to obtain compensation for injuries.
Recovering damages under New Jersey's strict liability statute requires that the defendant prove ownership and that he or she was in a public place or had the legal right to be on the owner's property at the time of the attack. The latter point is particularly important, because the strict liability law does not apply to victims who provoke an animal or who trespass on the owner's property.
Though New Jersey law is relatively generous to dog attack victims, it is important for victims to work with an experienced attorney when pursuing compensation from a dog owner. Doing so will ensure that the victim knows how to navigate the court system so as to have the best possible chance at an appropriate recovery.
New Jersey Department of Health Office of Animal Welfare, "It's the Law," Accessed Dec. 8, 2014.
Nj.com, "$500k dog bite settlement sheds light on victim-friendly laws in N.J.," Julia Terruso, Feb. 2, 2013.