According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. In 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being attacked and bitten by dogs.
About 1/3 of the states in the U.S. impose strict, or absolute, liability on the part of dog owners for injuries sustained by victims due to dog attacks or bites. New Jersey is one of those states.
New Jersey Statutes Annotated section 4:19-16 provides:
the owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of a dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
For the purpose of this section, a person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner when he is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner thereof.
To recover from the dog owner under NJ dog bite law, an injured victim must prove that the defendant owned the dog, that the dog bit the victim, and that the victim was in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property.
Strict liability will not be imposed on a dog owner for injuries sustained by a trespasser. Therefore, if the dog bite occurred in the dog owner’s home or on his property, the victim has to be there lawfully.
Consider the following situation: A father and his son are throwing a ball in their backyard, and the ball goes into the neighbor’s fenced-in yard. The neighbor has a pitbull in the backyard. The father decides to hop the fence to retrieve the ball. The pitbull sees the father, runs toward him, attacks and bites him in the nose and cheek. The father needs multiple stitches in his face and also reconstructive surgery for his nose. In this situation, it is unlikely that the dog owner would be held liable for the father’s injuries because the father was trespassing. He was not invited onto the dog owner’s yard.
However, if the dog owner was in the yard and told the father that he could hop the fence to retrieve the ball, the dog owner would likely be held liable for the father’s injuries.
If you were attacked or bitten by a dog in New Jersey, you may be entitled to recover compensation from the dog owner. It is important to speak to a dog bite injury lawyer in New Jersey to discuss your legal options. Call 877.944.8396 to schedule a free initial consultation.