New Jersey “Strict Liability” Dog Bite Law Means Victims Can Sue on First Offense
The aphorism goes that when a dog bites a man it’s not news. But the bite (actually, many vicious bites) heard ‘round the world came in 2010 in Elizabeth, New Jersey when a security guard was attacked by both a pit bull and a Rottweiler. The dogs had escaped from an enclosure on the workplace premises, and then attacked the man over the space of an hour. He was hospitalized for ten days due to extensive muscle damage and he is now permanently scarred.
The victim eventually received $563,000 in damages, negotiated through arbitration, which qualifies as one of the largest dog bite settlements in the state’s history. What was key to the case is New Jersey’s “strict liability” law, which effectively states that a first-time incidence of dog bites can be grounds for a lawsuit. In the past, there had to be a history of biting or threatening behaviors by the animals in question — which might have let the dog owners off the hook in the Elizabeth case.
Further, as is often the case in personal injury, there were at least two parties found to be responsible for the injuries. Primarily, it was the dog owner who is now liable for 85 percent of the damages. But the owner of the building where the dogs were able to enter is required to pay 15 percent of the settlement.
Whenever a person has been bitten by a dog, the injuries can be extensive and require immediate medical care, ongoing treatment and therapy, and counseling due to the psychological trauma that typically occurs. Financial compensation for these expenses, as well as pain and suffering awards, can be achieved in many cases. Speak with a personal injury attorney when you have suffered any of these injuries.