Dog Bite Victims Can Take Comfort Thanks to New Jersey Strict Liability Law
New Jersey strict liability law holds dog owners accountable for bites, even if the dog has no prior history of vicious behavior. As a result, the victim of a dog bite may collect damages simply by proving the following:
- The person deemed liable for a bite owned the dog or was directly responsible for it.
- The victim was bitten by the dog and sustained injuries.
- The injuries occurred in a place the victim had a legal right to be, including a public place and a home or other private property to which he or she was invited.
The strict liability law in the state might have contributed to a $536,000 arbitrated settlement obtained by a dog bite victim in early 2013. As reported by NJ.com, the settlement pertained to a 2009 incident when a factory security guard was surprised by two dogs that escaped their cage. The guard suffered severe injuries in a vicious attack that left him comatose for ten days and with ongoing restricted muscle function and numbness.
An interesting twist on this case involves the assignment of liability. The owner of the dogs was determined to have 85 percent of liability because he failed to keep the animals secured. However, the building landlord ended up paying 15 percent of the damages for failing to warn visitors about the presence of dangerous dogs and for failing to make the premises safe for employees.
Even though New Jersey law already favors victims of dog bites, a recent appellate court decision added certain animal care workers to the list of victims who can sue dog owners for bite injuries. The appeal overturned a trial court decision prohibiting a dog sitter from suing the owners of a dog in her care that bit her and can now serve as legal precedence for future similar cases.
This decision illustrates the importance of consulting with a New Jersey attorney with experience in dog bite law. Every change in the law — and every prior case — can make a difference to victims seeking to recover the full expenses related to their injuries.