Most New Jersey residents view dogs as adorable and well-loved companions. However, under the right circumstances any dog will bite, which may end up causing serious injuries to the victim. These injuries cost property owners and their insurance carriers significant amounts of money. In 2012, the dollar amount of claims for dog bites to people and other dogs increased by more than half of was reported in 2003. Dog bites represented almost a third of all the money paid out for liability claims — and those are just the documented claims.

Insurance companies across the country have paid a whopping amount – almost half a billion dollars – for dog bite claims. Most often, a child is the victim of a dog bite. A child usually acquires injuries on the face or head when bitten by a dog. Unfortunately, the dog they own or a dog they know is most likely to bite a child. Senior citizens are also common victims of dog attacks and bites, as are home-service providers like mail carriers, maintenance servicepersons, and meter readers.

Prevention is the key to avoiding dog bites. Parents should teach their children not to approach a dog they do not know and to act prudently around all dogs. Children should never be left alone with dogs. Dog owners, on the other hand, should have their dogs well-socialized. They can enroll their dogs in an obedience class so that the dog can learn and easily follow sit and stay commands.

New Jersey has a strict liability statute governing dog bites. Strict liability means the dog owner is liable for any damages caused by their dog biting someone, even if the dog had never before shown a tendency to bite. The liability applies as long as the victim was on public property, or lawfully on the dog owner’s property. The statute does not apply to victims who were trespassing, or who provoked the dog. But in cases where the statute does not apply, victims may still be able to recover under a negligence theory. An experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney can help a victim evaluate their case and represent them through the litigation process.

Source: The Sentinel, “Pet Tales: Dog bites cost almost half a billion dollars,” Dr. Lee Fausett, June 8, 2013