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New York Dog Bite Law: The Basics

New York dog bite laws are complex because dog bite provisions are included in state, county, and city laws. If a dog has bitten you, youll want to know if the laws in your area will support a bid to get the dogs owner to pay your medical bills.

Dog bite litigation is one kind of personal injury, or tort, lawsuit, similar to lawsuits stemming from car accidents or a slip and fall. Many personal injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning they do not require an up-front retainer fee but will take a percentage of any settlement or jury award.

Because of this, New York dog bite accident lawyers are motivated to take solid cases and will offer you an experienced opinion about how successful you will be with your dog bite case. If you are a victim of a dog bite, you should seek out a New York personal injury lawyer familiar with dog bite cases.

Youve Just Been Bitten by a Dog, Now What?

As soon as possible after a dog bite, you should try to identify the owner of the dog who bit you, and obtain a name and address if possible. Not only does this preserve your right to sue later should you require expensive medical treatment, it helps your medical professional determine whether you should undergo a series of painful and expensive vaccinations to protect you from rabies.

For example, if you were bitten by a healthy dog in New York City and know the owner, the owner may be allowed to observe the pet at home for the next 10 days to watch for signs of rabies. After 10 days with no sign of rabies, you are in the clear for that possibly fatal disease. If the dog is a stray, animal control officers will decide whether to take the dog in for observation, or whether you or others may be able to monitor the dog at all its usual hangouts.

If a dog shows signs of rabies within the 10-day observation period, it will be humanely euthanized, then tested for rabies. However, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there have been no dogs in New York City with rabies since 1954. Raccoons, bats, skunks, and the occasional cat are the most likely carriers of rabies in New York City.

After seeking medical attention for your injuries, it is important to report the incident to the local authorities, either local animal control, or police or sheriffs departments. In New York City, animal bites should be reported to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

To help build a case against the dog owner, you should document all of your expenses, including lost wages from time off to seek medical attention and/or therapy and damage to personal property. Take photographs of your injuries, any torn clothes, and damaged personal property. Get witness contact information.

The deadline (or statute of limitations) for filing a dog bite lawsuit in New York is three years from the date of the attack.

New York Dog Bite Law

In New York, dog bite laws say that the owners have strict liability for the damage and injuries their pets cause. Strict liability means that the dog owner is responsible for any injuries the dog may cause regardless of most circumstances. However, this is only the case when the dog has been previously declared dangerous.

A dog can be declared dangerous for other reasons besides biting someone. If someone reports to local animal control officials that a dog has a propensity to chase or harass a person to the point of intimidation, the formal process of declaring a dog dangerous can be initiated.

Not only may you, as a dog bite victim in New York, have the opportunity to sue to recover your medical costs and related expenses, the dog owner may be subject to fines. For example, even if the dog has not been declared dangerous, if a dog owner permits the dog to bite a person or a service dog, the owner may be fined up to $400 in New York. If the dog bite causes serious physical injury to a person or service dog, the fine may be as much as $800. And if the dog was previously declared dangerous, the owner may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

In addition, some cities regulate dogs by breed. In Larchmont, pit bulls are banned altogether. In Yonkers, pit bulls, Dobermans, and Rottweilers are declared dangerous automatically, i.e., without a dangerous dog hearing.

New York state dog bite laws do not address provocation. That is, a dog owner is still responsible for the injuries his previously-declared-dangerous dog inflicted even if the victim provoked the dog.

What Expenses Can You Recover From a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

As a dog bite victim who has been injured as a result of the dog bite, you may be able to sue to recover the following expenses:

  • Your medical bills
  • Lost income, both from treating the immediate injury and from any future lost income should you become incapacitated
  • Pain and suffering, which could include a new fear of dogs, especially in children who may continue to have nightmares after the attack
  • Property damage, if any
  • Loss of consortium, which means that the injury somehow damaged your relationship with your spouse or family

What Role Does Insurance Pay?

Many homeowner policies will cover the costs associated with the dog bites. Typical liability policies may offer from $100,000 to $300,000 worth of coverage.

Some insurance companies decline to cover certain breeds that have an acknowledged propensity to bite, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers. The insurance company might not cover the bite if it takes place on the owners property where the owner runs an at-home business, even if part-time, because many policies have a business pursuits exclusion. Finally, bites that take place in the owners car may instead be covered by an automobile policy.

If the dog owner has liability insurance, it is likely that the insurance company will be paying for the owners defense in any lawsuit you bring.

Again, a New York lawyer familiar with dog bite accidents will advise you on whether you should pursue a lawsuit as a result of your dog bite injuries based on your incidents particular set of circumstances.