Dog bites can happen unexpectedly and cause serious injuries. An unpredictable dog that is seemingly gentle or aggressive can bite you or a loved one without warning. Importantly, this can happen with any dog – dog biting is not breed-specific or reserved for large dogs such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, and German shepherds. Instead, dogs across all breeds can bite you and cause harm.
Long Island has many dog parks where bites can occur, but these incidents also happen outside of dog parks. You might suffer a bite while passing a dog on the sidewalk or even while visiting a friend whose dog you know well. Dogs are unpredictable and can attack people anywhere on Long Island.
As a result of a dog bite, you may face severe injuries such as bone fractures, scarring, bacterial infections, or damage to your nerves and ligaments. You may also experience emotional trauma and distress from the incident that can adversely impact your daily life.
Many dog bite victims have the right to take legal action to seek damages from the dog owner. Speak with a Long Island attorney about New York dog bite liability laws and your legal options.
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New York Law
If you are in New York State and have suffered a painful dog bite injury, there are important laws to understand so you know when the dog owner is responsible.
Generally, New York is a dog-friendly state, and the state’s laws reflect this, including homeowners’ insurance policies. For example, New York State recently took steps to prohibit insurers from refusing to issue, renew, cancel, or charge a higher premium or rate solely due to keeping or owning a dog of a specific breed or breed mix. This effort aims to eliminate homeowners’ insurance breed discrimination.
When it comes to liability for dog bites, New York laws are complicated and largely out of date. Most states follow a strict liability standard for dog owners, while some still follow the “one-bite” rule, but New York has a combination of the two.
The dog owner is strictly liable for medical costs of a bite victim if officials previously adjudicated a dog as dangerous. Strictly liable means that a victim does not have to prove the dog owner did anything wrong before the bite. However, to collect any other damages aside from medical bills, a victim must prove that the dog had vicious propensities and the owner knew of these propensities.
In many states, to successfully collect compensation you only need to prove that a dog bit you and you suffered injuries. Unfortunately, this is not the case in New York, and dog bite victims have a much higher hill to climb in a dog bite case. This is why you need a Long Island dog bite lawyer on your side.
Further, violating leash laws does not make a dog owner automatically liable for your bite injury. New York does not deem people “negligent per se” for violating local or municipal ordinances – only state laws. Since leash laws vary from one locality to another, failing to abide by leash laws is only evidence of negligence – not automatic proof of negligence.
While many people believe these dog bite laws in New York are antiquated and require an update to strict liability, this is the current law dog bite victims in the state must adhere to. Always have guidance from a dog bite lawyer who knows how to prove your dog bite case in Long Island.
In addition to covering the victim’s damages, states often impose an additional fine. In New York, the fine for an owner of a dog that bites another person (or bites a service or guide dog) cannot be more than $400. If a dog bites a person and causes a serious physical injury, then a civil penalty cannot be more than $1,500.
In cases establishing that a dangerous or vicious dog causes a physical injury, then a criminal penalty cannot exceed $3,000. Alternatively, the owner may instead face a 90-day jail period or both a fine and jail time.
While the general New York law is above, local laws can vary. Consult with a Long Island dog bite attorney for information about how local municipal laws or codes specific to your area may affect your claim.
Dog Bites Happen Regularly
These incidents are more common and serious than they may seem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks dog bite statistics, which provide insight into the severity and prevalence of dog bites in the United States.
More than 4.7 million dog bite incidents occur nationwide, and approximately 800,000 people seek medical attention every year. Most dog bite incidents are preventable, yet they continue to happen, with serious or fatal consequences. Many dog bite victims, especially young children, live with permanent disfigurement or lose their lives entirely.
Youth comprise a segment of the population more likely to suffer dog bites. Nationally, 40 percent of dog-bite-related injuries that need treatment in emergency rooms involve children.
Specifically, young children are more at risk for dog bite injuries to their neck or head. Scalp lacerations and brain abscesses can occur in some cases, and surgical intervention is necessary. On the other hand, older teens are more at risk for dog bite injuries to their legs or arms. Among youth, males are more likely to experience dog bites. Specifically, when compared to females, males are 1.12 times more likely to visit an emergency department because of a dog bite.
Generally, preventable dog bites commonly occur with people we know, such as family and friends—and this also holds in New York. Many dog bites take victim(s) by surprise, as such incidents occur in a familiar setting like your home or the home of someone you know (a neighbor or friend) involving a family pet. Over half of fatal bites occur in the dog’s residence and generally involve family members and/or friends and guests.
#3. Health Hazards
Dog bites are a health hazard and lead to high healthcare costs. Victims of dog bite injuries may face serious and lasting consequences. This may lead them to seek legal recourse to recover financially for their injuries. For example, if a dog bite resulted in a victim going to the hospital and subsequently obtaining treatment or surgery—these medical costs can add up quickly.
While some injuries can be as minor as scratches and bruises, you may suffer from long-term and more severe consequences such as:
- Potentially deadly bacterial infections like rabies
- Damage to nerves
- Torn ligaments
- Emotional trauma and PTSD
- Fractured bones
- Head trauma
In some cases, a seemingly minor injury can progress to a far worse condition and can even cause death. For example, a minor traumatic brain injury diagnosis after a dog attack may not seem too severe at first. However, the symptoms can worsen over time and progress from headaches and a minor concussion to serious complications and long-term effects. If you experience trauma to the head from a dog attack, seek medical attention right away and monitor your symptoms closely and continuously.
Further, even if a wound seems minor, if you do not have a medical professional properly clean the wound, you can easily develop a serious infection. Such infections can develop even as the wound seems to heal. Some dog bites might lead a victim to seek a rabies vaccine if they cannot confirm the dog’s vaccination status. Rabies vaccines can hurt, but rabies will kill people who develop it.
As a rule of thumb, seek immediate medical attention if you experience a dog attack or bite. Seeking medical treatment is not only critical to treat and heal from your injuries but also for legal protection. Keeping thorough and accurate documentation of your injuries – and in general – will support a potential legal claim you may have against the dog owner. Medical records and documentation allow your dog bite attorney to effectively prove your injuries, demonstrate injury severity, and accurately quantify your damages.
Some of the greatest health care costs from dog bite injuries can undoubtedly be hospital stays and surgical procedures. In New York, residents outside of the city, such as on Long Island, are more likely to need treatment in an emergency department for dog bites than city residents. More dog bite injuries occur in less densely populated areas, such as Long Island and surrounding areas.
In pursuing a dog bite lawsuit, an attorney licensed in New York and familiar with these cases can help you to determine the specific damages you deserve to recover.
These might include:
- Medical expenses, including ongoing and future treatment
- Lost income, including future wages
- Property damage
- Injuries to your dog or another animal
- Pain and suffering, such as diminished quality of life and emotional trauma
- Psychological treatment
If you lost a child or another loved one in a dog attack, you might have the right to file a wrongful death claim. This allows you to seek damages for loss of consortium, lost financial support, and lost affection because of their death.
Consult a Long Island dog bite lawyer with experience handling these cases about your potential claim. They can advise whether you are eligible for any damages mentioned above or others not listed here.
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The Value of Legal Assistance
If you or your loved one suffered serious harm due to a dog bite or if you lost a loved one due to a dog attack, you may have a personal injury or wrongful death claim. You may not know where to start without the right legal help.
Since the success of your dog bite claim largely hinges on whether you can prove the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious or dangerous propensities, you need a dog bite lawyer on your side. The right attorney in Long Island will understand all applicable laws and what you need to prove to prevail in your case.
Examples of how a lawyer can help you win your case include:
- Determining the responsible parties, such as verifying the actual dog owner(s) or those harboring the dog, so that you can bring a case against them
- Gathering the specific facts and circumstances of your case to determine its strengths and weaknesses
- Collecting critical evidence that can support your case, including records and documentation of the dog’s biting history
- Ensuring you timely file a claim under New York’s statute of limitations or insurance company deadlines. Additionally, an attorney can help you understand your legal options if you surpass the limitations period.
- Navigating the challenges and complexities that arise while building a case, which allows you to focus on healing from your injuries
- Calculating your damages, including costs that may accrue in the future, such as loss of future wages and upcoming medical expenses
- Advocating on your behalf to obtain the compensation you deserve to cover your losses. For example, your lawyer will zealously negotiate for the settlement amount that will make you whole from your injuries-placing you in the position you were in before the attack.
Don’t Delay, Contact a New York or Long Island Dog Bite Lawyer Today
It can be overwhelming and painful to recover from a dog bite or attack. Fortunately, you do not have to face such a complex and challenging legal process on your own. You can start today by asking trusted friends and family for referrals and conducting your own online research on local lawyers.
Next, you can schedule a consultation with a New York dog bite lawyer. Case evaluations are free, and a lawyer should answer any specific questions you have. Getting started sooner rather than later will best position you to pursue and achieve a successful dog bite claim.