Are Owners Responsible For Dog Bites?

Are Owners Responsible For Dog Bites?

Dogs provide their owners with affection, companionship and protection. It is little wonder that dogs are the country’s favorite pet, with more than 60 percent of Americans counting a dog as part of their family. While many owners take the time to train and socialize their pets, dog bites still occur. If you or a family member received serious injuries from a dog attack, our attorneys at Cellino Law stand ready to provide you with information regarding your legal options and hold dog owners liable for their animal’s behavior.

What Causes Aggression In Dogs? 

While some dog breeds have a stronger drive to protect their territory and chase prey, any dog can deliver a painful and damaging bite. Some dogs may bite if startled or experience pain as they age. However, some types of aggression are the result of poor training and owner neglect, such as:

  • Little or no socialization at the puppy stage 
  • Learned aggression from an owner 
  • Fearfulness from negative reinforcement training (being struck or punished) 
  • Unresolved resource guarding 

When young dogs exhibit aggressive behavior as puppies and it goes uncorrected, they are much more likely to bite as adults. Some breeds may exhibit gentleness with people but attack other animals, such as smaller dogs. Proper training and corrective behavior based on positive reinforcement can prevent unwanted behavior like lunging, chasing and biting.

How Does Bite Force Affect the Severity of a Dog Attack? 

A dog’s ability to bite and the strength of their jaws is measured in bite force and how much force per square inch it can inflict. Dogs with larger heads and wide jaws usually have a larger bite force. Breeds such as the Cane Corso, the Rottweiler and the English Mastiff have powerful bites that can tear flesh and crush bone, and the higher the bite force, the more damaging the wounds during an attack.

While bite force is a factor in the severity of injuries obtained during a dog bite, smaller dogs can inflict damage by biting repeatedly or biting and then refusing to let go. This can increase the depth of damaging puncture wounds, which may become infected.

How Does Victim Age Affect the Risk of a Dog Bite? 

While anyone can experience a dog bite, young children have the highest risk of injury. Their height makes their face, neck and head vulnerable to the crushing jaws of a large dog, although smaller dogs can also inflict facial wounds.

Elderly individuals are also at a higher risk for a dog bite injury, especially those with balance issues. An attacking dog can knock them over and gain access to vulnerable areas of the body, such as the chest and neck. When more than one animal attacks these individuals, the resulting injuries are usually quite serious.

What Is the One-Bite Rule? 

Several states, such as New York, operate under what is called the one-bite rule. Under this rule, a dog owner is not responsible for any injuries when their dog bites someone, but only if the animal has no previous history of aggression or biting. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, including:

  • If the owner places warning signs outside the property about a dog 
  • If a fenced dog snarls and lunges at people passing by a property 
  • If a dog attempted to bite someone but failed to make contact 
  • If the dog must wear a muzzle while in public places 

Contacting our attorneys can provide you with valuable information regarding your legal rights and options should you decide to file a dog bite liability case in court.

What If You Believe the Dog Owner Is Liable? 

Proving liability in a dog bite case hinges on gathering information our attorneys can use in court. They will investigate the incident by reviewing photos of the location where the attack happened, speaking to any witnesses and looking into the animal’s history for any past evidence of aggression.

If the owner of the dog has home insurance, he or she should file a claim through the provider. If the amount of insurance available eclipses your damages, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit for the remaining amount.

What Actions Can You Take After a Dog Bite? 

After a dog bite or attack occurs, it is wise to seek medical attention right away. Document your injuries with photos and ask the doctor to create a report you can submit to our attorneys. If the dog owner’s insurance company approaches you with settlement offers, allowing our attorneys to represent you can provide you with peace of mind regarding those decisions.

What Damages Can You Pursue In a Dog Bite Case? 

When a dog bite occurs, the resulting physical and emotional consequences can cause your life to change forever. Our attorneys will build a case based on a variety of damages connected with a dog bite to protect your future and prevent financial strain.

Medical Bills 

A dog bite can cause a variety of physical injuries including torn or ripped skin, damaged skin tissue, severe bleeding, and secondary infections. Our attorneys will gather medical bills, doctor’s reports and the cost of treatment, including medications, to the total of your compensatory damages.

Lost Wages 

Experiencing a severe dog bite can cause you to miss multiple days of work for doctor’s appointments, physical therapy and pain that may prevent you from performing your duties. Letters and documentation from your employer regarding missed time can help our attorneys meet the required burden of proof you carry as a plaintiff.

Pain and Suffering 

The degree of pain and suffering you experience as a result of a dog bite can cause permanent injuries that affect not only you but your family as well. These are non-economic damages that include a wide array of problems, from the physical pain you live with, as well as emotional trauma, disfigurement and a reduced enjoyment of life. The amount our attorneys place on pain and suffering is unique to your case.

Emotional Trauma 

A dog attack can cause changes in your emotions and lead to anxiety and depression. Post-traumatic stress disorder can also result from a serious dog bite, which may cause a new or worsening fear of dogs, triggers that cause flashbacks to the incident and hypervigilance that keeps you in a constant state of fear and impending danger. You may require therapy and medication to soothe your symptoms as you attempt to heal from the mental trauma, and our attorneys can add their cost to your non-economic damages.

Punitive Damages 

Our attorneys can request the judge to add punitive damages in addition to your total damages if the owner acted with carelessness or negligence that resulted in your dog bite. For example, if your neighbor’s dog is aggressive or a known biter and the owner fails to maintain fencing that keeps the dog confined, this is a negligent act. Punitive damages punish the defendant for such actions and discourage him or her from repeating them in the future.

Contact Us With Your New York Dog Bite Case 

When a serious dog bite happens and you find yourself overwhelmed by the aftermath, you do not have to face the future alone. Turn to our attorneys at Cellino Law instead. Contact us today and put experience and knowledge in your corner.



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