What are the grounds for a valid dog bite case?
A slew of recent dog attacks in and around New York City have citizens concerned about their legal rights should they suffer an injury by someone else’s canine. Just recently, in Central Park, a man sitting with his wife and infant was attacked by a dog who bit his forearm. He was transported to the hospital for treatment. New York dog bite victims are often appalled to learn that dog bite laws in the state can make it quite difficult to recover damages. Our NYC dog bite injury attorney explains New York’s dog bite laws and why many are calling for reform.
New York’s Common Law
In the state of New York, the standards for recovery from dog owners are set out in the common law, which consists of case law developed over time. As it stands now, dog bite victims must meet two burdens to have a viable case against the owner of the dog who injured him or her. First, the dog bite victim must show that the dog has a vicious propensity. The dog needs to have dangerous tendencies, which can be hard for the victim to prove. It is not enough that the dog barks at people. Usually, evidence that the dog previously attacked someone will satisfy this requirement.
In addition to demonstrating the dog had vicious tendencies, the victim must also prove the dog’s owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensity. For dogs that were recently adopted, this can be difficult to satisfy. Previous attacks by the dog while living with the current owner will usually meet this element.
The “One-bite” law
New York’s dog bite laws, in essence, give the dog a pass for its first bite. New York and states with laws similar to its have become termed “one-bite law” states. Other states have updated their laws to hold the dog owners responsible for their dog’s attacks, whether it is the first bite or not. Many dog victim advocates have called for a reform to New York’s laws to place less burden on the dog bite victim and more responsibility on the dog owner.