Dog bites have a unique complexity in personal injury law: If you were bitten by a dog, you cannot get compensation from the dog. Instead, you have to look to another party to pay for your injuries, even though the owner was not the one who harmed you.
This little wrinkle is why state legislatures across the United States have stepped in to pass laws that detail how dog bite victims can be compensated.
New Jersey's Dog Bite Law
New Jersey's legislative solution is encapsulated in N.J. Rev. Stat. § 4:19-16, which makes a dog owner strictly liable for all of the injuries suffered by the victim of the dog bite, even if their dog showed no signs of viciousness or does not have a history of biting people.
Importantly, this means that dog owners are liable to victims of their dog's first attack. This makes New Jersey's law unlike that of some other states, which only makes the dog owner liable to victims if their dog has bitten or attacked people before.
Compensation for All Injuries Suffered, Not Just the Bite
One of the most important passages in New Jersey's dog bite statute is that the owner of the dog “shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten.”
This phrase is important for what it does not say: It does not limit a victim's recovery to the cost of the bite, alone. If you get attacked by the dog and you suffer bites, scratches, and a broken bone, you can get compensation for all of those injuries, not just the bite. However, there have to be bite injuries for the dog bite law to apply, at all. Jannuzzelli v. Wilkens, 385 A.2d 322 (1978).
Victims Can Also Recover Compensation Without Resorting to Dog Bite Statute
Just because New Jersey has a statute detailing how a dog bite should be handled does not mean that dog attack victims have to use it. If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, you can also claim that the owner was being negligent and that this negligence was the cause of your injuries. However, this often requires proving that the dog was vicious and that the owner knew it. DeRobertis v. Randazzo, 462 A.2d 1260 (1983).
Trespassers and Dog Bites
The difference between utilizing New Jersey's dog bite statute and a lawsuit based on negligence comes to the forefront if you were trespassing on the dog owner's property. Under the statute, trespassers cannot recover for their injuries. Under a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence, though, trespassers who did not have a criminal intent can still be compensated, unless they incited the attack in some way. DeRobertis v. Randazzo, 462 A.2d 1260 (1983).
New Jersey Dog Bite Attorneys Can Help
Being attacked and bitten by a dog can result in serious injuries, and you deserve to be compensated. However, the law surrounding dog bites in New Jersey is far from straightforward. Call the law office of Lavery, Selvaggi & Cohen at (908) 852-2600 or contact them online for the legal help you need.