Unlike other states that impose a ‘one bite’ dog bite liability law, the state of New Jersey is a strict liability state. Strict liability holds dog owners liable for the harm that their animals cause, regardless of whether or not the dog has demonstrated aggression in the past. However, a claim based on negligence, rather than strict liability, is also possible for victims to pursue.
New Jersey’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Statute
New Jersey Code 4:19-6 reads, “The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
The statute, then, makes clear that dog owners are liable regardless of whether their dog has been vicious in the past, as long as the victim was not performing an illegal activity (such as trespassing) at the time of the bite/attack. Trespassing is one of the commonly used dog bite defenses used by dog owners.
Negligence Actions for Dog Bites
Under the strict liability law, the damages that are available are only economic. The defendant is only liable for paying for financial losses, like medical expenses.
However, a claim can be pursued based on negligence, too. You could pursue a negligence claim if the dog owner did something irresponsible that directly led to the dog bite. For example, if the dog were vicious and unrestrained, then negligence could be argued.
Under a negligence action, the victim is entitled to both economic damages and noneconomic damages. The latter refers to payment for pain and suffering.
Time Limits for Filing a Dog Bite Action in New Jersey
Like other personal injury suits in New Jersey, the statute of limitations for bringing forth a dog bite action is two years. If you miss the deadline, it is unlikely that damages will be recoverable.
Which to pursue: strict liability or negligence?
Knowing whether to continue an action based on strict liability (statutory law) or neglect (case law) can be difficult, and will depend on your unique circumstances and the extent of harm you’ve suffered. To help you determine which to pursue, and how to maximize your damages amount, contact the dog bite attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC. To discuss your case at no cost and without any obligation today, dial 215-642-2335 now!