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Bit Or Attacked By A Dog? What You NEED To Know About Legal Action & Liability…

In many states, laws surrounding animal bites can make pursuing compensation for damages complicated. In New York State, we follow what’s known as the “One Bite” Law. The “One Bite” Law states that an owner is only liable for their animal’s injurious actions if the dog or animal, to the owner’s knowledge, has bitten before. Some view this as a free pass while others believe it is a fair law.

When Owners May Be Held Liable

In essentially all scenarios, there must be proof that the owner knew their animal’s prior behavior could lead to an attack. Here are some reasons a court may hold the owner liable:

  • If The Animal Has Bitten Before – This pertains to the “One Bite” Law – proof that the owner was aware that their dog or animal has bitten before
  • If The Animal Displayed Prior Vicious, Frightening Behavior – For example, there must be proof that the dog often barks viciously behind a backyard gate as if it’s willing to attack, or chases others to the point where they are frightened
  • If The Animal Often Jumps On People – If the owner knows that the animal often jumps on others, it’s their responsibility to prevent their dog or animal from knocking others over (crucial if your injuries were due to an animal knocking you over)
  • If The Animal Has Been Trained To Fight – A court will likely hold the owner responsible if the animal has been trained by the owner to fight since the owner fully knows their dog or animal is dangerous and can be violent
  • If There Are Prior Complaints – If neighbors have reported complaints about the dog or animal’s vicious behavior, especially if it has bitten before or tends to be violent

These circumstances can be difficult to prove alone. But an experienced Dog Bite Attorney or Animal Attack Attorney will be able to prove liability and get their client the maximum compensation they deserve.

When Owners May Not Be Held Liable

There are instances when owners aren’t held liable, including but not limited to these circumstances:

  • If The Dog Has Never Bitten Before (To Owner’s Knowledge) – The “One Bite” Law states that if the owner has no knowledge whatsoever that the dog has bitten before, they are not liable
  • If The Plaintiff Was Trespassing – If the plaintiff was on the owner’s property without their consent, even if the dog has bitten before, the owner may not be held liable
  • If The Plaintiff Provoked The Attack – If the plaintiff’s behavior legitimately provoked the animal into attacking you (ie. an attempt to assault the animal or its owner)

An experienced Dog Bite Attorney or Animal Attack Attorney is essential in fighting these defenses.

If You Own An Animal, Keep Everyone Safe

Animals are known to be unpredictable. And every dog owner knows how difficult it can be to keep their dog from being territorial or vicious when they are scared. Here is a great tutorial on how to train your dog to be less violent.

Is This Fair?

While many states follow the “One Bite” Law, other states follow a “Strict Liability” Law that disregards this one “free pass”, as some would call it. Not all dog bites are reported, nor vicious behavior. Even if a Dog Bite Attorney can prove that a dog has displayed violent behavior in the past, liability may still be up in the air. It could have not been reported, the prior owner could have neglected to tell the current owner about the dog’s violent behavior, or the current owner could actually know but act oblivious. And with any of those scenarios, they aren’t liable.

Is this fair? A dog bite victim could lose everything they’ve worked for in life. They could be injured to the point where they are facing medical bills and lost wages that span on into the future. Is this “free pass” ethical? The “One Bite” Law was created several years ago. Is it time we reconsider its efficacy to uphold the rights of ordinary citizens?