Dog bites are a serious public safety issue. Every day, there are over 1,000 people are seen in the emergency room for dog bite related injuries in the United States. Dog bite victims account for 5% of emergency room visits. Small children, the elderly, and postal service carriers are the most frequent victims of dog bites, in that order.
State Farm recently released a report that ranked states with the highest amount of paid claims related to dog bites in 2014. The top three states for dog-related injury claims are California, Illinois and New York.
New Jersey came in fourth. State Farm paid a total of $6,393,678 for 107 dog bite injury claims. Pennsylvania came in eighth. State Farm paid a total of $4,344,524 for 172 claims. Though the number of claims for New Jersey was less than Pennsylvania, the amount was higher because the injuries in the NJ dog bite claims were more serious and severe.
The sad truth is that many of these dog attacks were probably preventable. Dogs need to be properly restrained. When dogs are outside in front or back yards, dog owners need to make sure that the dogs are properly fenced in and cannot run away. Even when there are fences, dog owners need to check the fences periodically to make sure that there are no broken slats or pieces that may allow dogs to escape.
When out and about, dog owners need to restrain their dogs by using leashes. Many dog owners falsely believe that their dogs are so well-trained that they won’t run away when they are off the leash. Unfortunately, dogs are unpredictable. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know what sets off dogs to run away or attack, even with most well-trained dogs.
Victims of dog attacks in PA and NJ have legal rights. They may be able to financially recover from the dog owners. Damages victims may recover include:
However, the dog bite laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are not the same, and victims have to prove different elements in order to financially recover from the dog owners.
Victims of dog attacks and bites in Pennsylvania may financially recover from responsible dog owners by proving the owners were negligent. Dog owners are negligent if they failed to do something a reasonably prudent person would have done to prevent the dog attack.
For instance, a dog owner is negligent if he walks his dog without a leash on a trail and the dog attacks a jogger running by. The dog owner should have put the dog on a leash to prevent the dog attack. If the dog was on a leash, the attack would probably not have happened. Even if the dog tried to lunge at the jogger, the owner would have been able to prevent the attack by pulling the dog back on the leash.
Victims of dog attacks in New Jersey do not have to prove that the dog owners were negligent in order to financially recover after dog attacks. NJ dog attack law holds the dog owner strictly liable for a victim’s injuries if the dog bites a victim. The only things the victim has to prove are: 1. the dog owner owned the dog, 2. the dog bit the victim, and 3. the victim was in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property.
Using the above example, the injured jogger would not have to argue that the dog should have been on a leash. The fact that he was bitten is enough to hold the owner liable.
It is important to note that victims of dog attacks also need to prove their damages. Even when the dog owners are responsible for dog attacks, there is no financial recovery if there is no proof of damages. In order to prove their injuries, the most common form of evidence is the victims’ medical records. All of the records from various medical providers should be included as evidence, from emergency room records to family physician records to plastic surgeon records.
Another form of evidence is pictures. Victims should take pictures of their injuries after the dog attacks. In addition, victims should periodically take pictures of their injuries. Many dog bite injuries leave scars. It is important to document what the permanent scars looked like at different stages, especially in the beginning.
Daniel J. O’Brien, Esq. and his team have helped victims of dog attacks in NJ and PA. They are well versed in the dog attack laws in both states. If you have questions about your dog attack, feel free to call and schedule a FREE consultation. 877.944.8396