Almost everyone has had a brush with some kind of car accident or a slip and fall, and it’s fairly straightforward to imagine how one would obtain compensation for those: by suing the insurance company connected to the vehicle or premises that caused the accident.

But what happens if someone’s dog bit you at a park or another’s property, and you had injuries? What could you do?

It turns out that homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bites, as long as the dog is harbored in that home. It doesn’t matter where the dog bite or injury occurs. If the dog bite happened on the premises of an apartment building, it’s also possible that the landlord, and by extension, the landlord’s insurance policy, could also be held liable.

What kinds of injuries do dog bites cause?

Beyond bleeding and skin punctures, a serious dog bite could cause:

  • Hemorraghing
  • Wound site infection
  • Bone fractures or sprains
  • Nerve damage
  • Psychological or emotional trauma 
  • Muscle and soft tissue damage

What kind of expenses could dog bites incur?

The aftermath of a dog bite could include emergency care, reconstructive surgery, physical or psychological therapy, missed time at work and even disability. 

If a dog bit you, and caused significant harm and expenses, you deserve to know if you can recover compensation. Give us a call at 845-600-0000 to schedule a free consultation in either our Kingston or Poughkeepsie personal injury law firm offices.We will push back against insurance companies that will try to limit the amount you can recover.

How to recover compensation after a dog bite in New York State

The biggest myth about dog bites is that every dog gets “a free bite.” That’s not true; a dog just has to have a proven history of “vicious propensities,” which may not include a previous bite. It has to be proven that it was foreseeable in any way that the dog could cause harm to a human being.

This doesn’t just include bites; big dogs that are known to jump up and greet people, knocking them down in the process, can be proven to have a propensity for causing harm.

Researching the dog’s history

When we take on a dog bite case, proving a history of vicious propensity is central to the case. We’ll interview neighbors, community members, the garbage collectors, postal employees, and contact animal control to see if there’s any history. If a dog has gotten loose and bitten someone, then there’s a good chance there’s a record of it somewhere. 

The history of behavior has to match the circumstances of the case; context matters. If it’s a dog bite case, but the dog only has a history of happily knocking people down by jumping on them, then that would be a difficult case to prove a propensity.

If the case makes it to a court, we can also question the dog’s veterinary practice; if a dog truly has a vicious propensity, then there may be records of it attacking staff at a veterinary practice and having to change vets often.

Finding out who the owner is

If a dog injures you, you should attempt to get the owner’s contact information. If the dog gets away, but you know where it lives, a lawyer can conduct a deed search for the property, and determine who is harboring the dog.

Considering the landlord

If the dog is harbored in an apartment, and it causes an injury within the premises of the property, it’s possible that the landlord could be held liable, if before the bite, they knew or were notified by a tenant or guest that the dog was dangerous.

Other factors for proving liability or propensity

  • If the dog is trained to be violent, i.e. a fighting dog or junkyard dog, it may have a provable violent propensity 
  • “Beware of dog” signage does not protect owners from liability
  • Dog breed does not matter
  • There is no “comparative fault” for dog injuries; even if it could be argued that the victim provoked the dog or approached it in an aggressive way, liability is assigned 100% to the dog’s owner
  • If a dog aggressively eats food without regard for people’s fingers, that may be used as proof of a violent propensity toward dog bites
  • If a dog kills neighborhood cats, or squirrels, or can be proven to have attacked other dogs (beyond just “dogs being dogs” scraps), that could be a violent propensity

The statute of liability in New York State for a dog bite is generally three years, but can be shorter. As always, it’s advisable that dog attack victims should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible, as it’s easier to collect evidence and prove a vicious propensity while memories and evidence is still fresh.