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FAQs About New York Dog Bite Cases

The Syracuse dog bite attorneys at Michaels & Smolak receive many questions from dog bite or dog attack victims about New York dog bite law. We have compiled here a list of the most commonly asked questions along with our answers. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact us to ask for a free consultation.

Is the Owner of the Dog Liable When the Dog Bites or Attacks Me?

Not always. In New York, to prove your dog bite or dog attack case, you have to show that the owner knew the dog had “vicious propensities” before the dog bit or attacked you. “Vicious propensities” means that the dog had a tendency to attack or bite people.

How do I Prove the Dog Had “Vicious Propensities”?

The easiest way to prove this is to show that the dog had bit or attacked someone else before. You can also show knowledge of “vicious propensities” by proving that the dog tended to act aggressively by baring its teeth, growling, snapping at people, lunging, barking aggressively, etc.

How do I Show the Owner Knew About the Dog’s Vicious Propensities?

You can show the owner knew or suspected the dog was vicious by showing that the owner put up “beware of dog” signs, kept the dog on a leash, never let strangers near the dog, etc. The best proof is a prior bite, but if there is no prior bite, a combination of some of the evidence listed above can sometimes prove the owner knew the dog had vicious propensities. Our dog bite attorneys serving the Syracuse area have a lot of experience gathering evidence of vicious propensities from neighbors, mail deliverers, etc.

Can My Child Sue If He Was Bitten by a Dog?

No, but you can sue for your child. The money you get in settlement or at trial will go into a special account for your child that he will be able to access when he is 18 (but not before, unless the judge gives you special permission to do so).

Does Insurance Cover Dog Bite Injuries?

The dog owner’s homeowner's insurance policy will likely provide coverage for the dog bite injury. If the dog owner rents, and has renter’s insurance, that policy will also likely cover the dog bite. However, more and more we are seeing insurance policy exclusions for dog bites or attacks, sometimes limited to just aggressive breeds, but other times to all dog bites. The only way to know if there is dog bite coverage is to request a copy of the homeowner’s insurance policy.

Does It Matter Where the Dog Was When It Bit Me?

No. If the dog bit you on the owner’s property, or on your property, or in the street, or anywhere, the law is the same: The owner is liable if he knew the dog had vicious propensities.

What are the Worst Types of Dog Bite Injuries?

Without a doubt, it is bites to the face. Dog bites usually leave scarring. A scar lasts a lifetime. Sadly, most facial dog bites are to children. They tend to get their face into the dog’s space. But even if it can be argued it was the child’s “fault” for having provoked the dog, the dog owner is 100% liable if the owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensities.

What Should I do Right After a Dog Bite?

Ask the owner whether the dog was up to date on its rabies shot, but don’t just believe them. Ask for the documents that prove it. If you can’t get proof, get rabies shots. Get medical attention anyway. Call the police or whoever in your community investigates dog attacks. If you believe the dog is a danger to others, press the authorities for a “dangerous dog hearing”. At that hearing, if the judge finds the dog is a danger to others, he will order it quarantined, leashed, kept inside, or even put down.

What is a Dangerous Dog Hearing?

Your dog bite attorney might push for a dangerous dog hearing in Syracuse or whatever village, town or city the dog resided in. If you or your lawyer insist on a dangerous dog hearing, or the authorities do, a judge may decide to put down the dog, but this usually happens only after the dog has bitten at least two people, or when the attack was especially vicious. Usually for a first bite the judge will order the dog kept on leash or locked up. But it is important to understand that the dangerous dog hearing really has nothing to do with your dog bite claim for compensation. The dangerous dog hearing is to protect others from an attack. It is not designed for you to get compensation. Instead your Syracuse area dog bite lawyer will bring a separate personal injury claim for you.

Can I File a Claim if I Was Working on the Owner’s Property When I Was Bit?

Yes. You may also have a workers’ compensation case under your employer’s insurance, but that is a separate thing. You can take workers’ compensation benefits and still sue the owner if he knew of the dog’s vicious propensities.

If the Dog Owner Violated the Local Leash Law, Does That Make Them Liable?

No. The only thing that makes a dog owner liable in New York State is if the owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensities. Nothing else matters. If a leash law existed, and the owner violated the leash law, the owner is still NOT liable unless the owner know of the dog’s vicious propensities.

How Much Will I be Compensated for in a New York Dog Bite Case?

It depends on the seriousness of the injury or scarring. Only an experienced New York dog bite lawyer can estimate what a jury or an insurance adjuster is likely to give you in compensation.

Should I Give a Recorded Statement to the Owner’s Insurance Adjuster?

No, not unless you first talk to an attorney who regularly represents dog-bite victims in New York. The insurance adjuster is trained to make you say things that can hurt your case.

Does the Breed of Dog Matter for Proving Liability?

Not really. Any dog, no matter what the breed, can be vicious. If the owner knew it was vicious, they are liable. That being said, some breeds ARE more vicious and therefore it is usually easier to win those cases. The most vicious breeds are: dachshund, Chow, Doberman, Pitbull, Dalmatian, Rottweiler, German shepherd.

What is My Statute of Limitations for Suing a Dog Owner?

Generally, three years, but for children the three-years does not start to run until they are 18. Thus, children have until their 21st birthday.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Syracuse dog bite lawyers for a free consultation!

Dog Bite Injuries

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