What to do if you get bit by a dog

Pet Lovers Beware:


At their best, dogs are friendly animals that make great family pets. But thousands of people each year are reminded that no matter how human dogs may seem, they’re still animals, with an instinct to protect themselves, their territory and their “pack.” According to the Insurance Information Institute the number of dog bites in the United States is rising, with the number of reported instances nearing 4 million per year. In the late 90’s insurance companies reported paying a staggering $1 billion in dog bite claims.


New Jersey is among the many states throughout the country which imposes strict liability on dog owners. If a dog bites someone the dog owner will be held liable for any damages inflicted upon the dog bite victim. The dog owner will be held liable even if the dog had never previously exhibited the propensity to bite humans.


To recover under the New Jersey dog bite statute a plaintiff must prove only (1) that the defendant owned the dog, (2) that the dog bit the plaintiff, and (3) that the plaintiff was in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property. This does not necessarily require physical contact; if a dog runs at and frightens someone, causing him to injure himself, the statute still applies, and the plaintiff may recover. But a person cannot recover for injuries if that person was an unlawful trespasser or provoked the dog in any way. In New Jersey any recovery will be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault, if any.


Protect yourself from liability:

There are several basic ways that a dog owner may be able to protect themselves from suit including putting up signs warning about the presence of the dog, making sure fencing is secure, that there are no holes in it or tunnels underneath it, and the gate latch works and keeping your dog on a leash while you are out in public.

            Although a pet owner may not be able to shield themselves from direct liability for damages to a victim, they may be able to insulate themselves from having to pay a judgment personally. Pet owners are advised to purchase home owners insurance or rental insurance to reduce the risk of financial devastation. For instance, if the owners of a dog have no assets, then they are effectively “judgment proof” and the likelihood of a case being filed against them is low, on the other hand if the owner of an animal has some assets, but no insurance then significant risk exists. In a New Jersey case of DeRobertis v. Randazo, Randazzo had to pledge his house as security for the judgment because he did not have any other means of satisfying the $40,000 judgment rendered against him, for injuries caused to the plaintiff by his dog.


Get compensated for your injuries:

            According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention approximately 65% of victims under four years old sustained traumatic head and neck injuries, which include skulls injuries, eye injuries, facial nerve damage and permanent scarring. Adults on the other hand are more likely to be bitten in the arms or legs, but can still suffer broken bones, nerve damages, blood loss, scarring, and even amputation. Victims also become susceptible to infections from the dog’s teeth. And while they may not be as apparent as a broken bone or scarring, victims may also have emotional injuries that eventually results in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.Instant drastic changes in self-image combined with a new fear of dogs results in life altering changes. Some severe dog bite victims can no longer work, may have continuing flashbacks or nightmares and may live in constant fear of another attack on themselves or their loved ones.

            If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of a dog bite, call the law offices of Vlasac & Shmaruk and one of our dedicated attorneys can help you evaluate your injuries and help you get the compensation for your injuries.