New Jersey’s Dog Bite Law—Liability and Defenses

Dog Bite Law

A dog is man’s best friend—most of the time. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than four million Americans are bitten by domesticated canines every year, and almost a million of those bites develop some type of infection. New Jersey law imposes what is known as “strict liability” on dog owners, making it easier for victims to recover for their injuries. But there are also specific defenses dog owners may raise.

The Concept of Strict Liability

Under the legal theory of strict liability, the customary requirement in a personal injury lawsuit—that you prove negligence by the defendant—does not apply. Instead, New Jersey law holds that, if the dog bite victim was on public property or was legally on the dog owner’s property at the time of the attack, you only need to show that you were bitten and demonstrate who owned the dog, and that person will be responsible. Accordingly, the courts don’t care if the dog had previously attacked others or if you had any knowledge that the dog was vicious.

Once you establish who owned the dog, that the dog bit you, and that you were either on public property or legally on the owner’s property, you have a right to recover damages for all injuries and property damage.

The concept of strict liability, though, generally applies only to bites, maulings or other attacks by a dog. If a dog chases you into the street and you are hit by a car, the strict liability statute probably won’t apply. In such a circumstance, you would need to file a lawsuit based on negligence.

Defenses to a Dog Bite Lawsuit

There are a number of instances where a dog owner may escape liability:

  • Where the victim was not legally on the property—As a general rule, a trespasser cannot recover damages for injuries caused by a dog attack.
  • Provocation—The New Jersey courts will look at the degree to which the injured person was responsible for the attack. For example, if the victim intentionally provoked or taunted the dog, and the court determines that was the primary cause of the injury, the plaintiff may be prevented from recovering damages.

Contact the Law Offices of Mallon & Tranger

To learn how we can help you if you have been the victim of a dog bite or animal attack, contact us online or call us at 732-410-6094 (toll free at 8773200692). There is no charge for your first meeting. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.

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