When do dog bite victims have legal recourse in New Jersey?

Victims of dog bite injuries should be familiar with the legal criteria that they must meet to pursue compensation for those injuries in New Jersey.

Dog bites represent an incredibly common injury, with about 4.5 million bites occurring annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In over half of these cases, the victims are owners or other people who live with the dog. However, in other cases, innocent individuals may suffer serious harm when dogs attack. This makes it important for people in Toms River to understand whether they have grounds for a legal claim in these situations.

Lawful presence

Dog bite victims only have a right to seek compensation if they are attacked while they are in public or lawfully present on private property. According to materials from the New Jersey Courts website, a person's presence on private property is considered lawful if the owner has invited the person onto the property or implied that the person is welcome. A person's presence is also lawful if the person enters the property to carry out duties imposed under state law or federal postal regulations.

Unprovoked incident

The victims of dog bite injuries may be able to secure recompense if their personal actions did not contribute to the incident. Recourse might not be available if a victim provoked the dog deliberately or chose to interact with the dog despite knowing that it was likely to bite. When dog bites occur in New Jersey, the victim's innocence is presumed, and the dog's owner is tasked with proving whether the victim contributed to the attack in any way.

First bites

In some states, dog owners can only be held liable for bite injuries if a dog has previously bitten or acted aggressively. However, according to The Star-Ledger, New Jersey imposes strict liability on dog owners. Therefore, dog bite victims may be able to seek compensation for all expenses associated with a bite even if the responsible dog never demonstrated vicious tendencies before.

Secondary liability

In some cases, bite victims may also be able to seek damages from parties other than the dog's owner. For instance, under state law, landlords with dangerous dogs in their buildings can be held liable for failing to make the premises safe for workers or failing to warn people in the building that the dogs are present. The Star-Ledger cites the case of one security guard who survived a dog attack and succeeded in obtaining damages from the landlord of the building as well as the owner of the dogs.

Temporary guardians

People who suffer bite injuries while walking a dog or looking after it may also be able to seek compensation. State courts have previously held that employees or contractors who care for dogs cannot hold owners liable for any associated injuries. In 2012, however, a New Jersey appellate court ruled that a woman who worked on a part-time basis as a dog sitter could sue the dog's owner for a bite injury.

Making a claim

Given these various requirements, proving that a dog owner is liable for a bite injury may be difficult in many cases. Furthermore, securing adequate compensation to provide for medical costs and other losses associated with a dog bite injury may be challenging. As a result, victims of these injuries may benefit from consulting with an attorney for advice on putting together a claim and pursuing an appropriate amount of compensation.