Are You Responsible If Your Pet Bites Someone?



You love your dog, and you know your little baby wouldn’t hurt a fly, but even the sweetest animal may bite someone if provoked. When are you responsible if your pet hurts someone? The law varies from state to state, but we will use the state of New York as an example of a jurisdiction that has both “strict liability” and “one bite” laws.

Strict Liability

New York, and many other jurisdictions, makes an owner strictly liable for injuries caused by their pets in certain circumstances.  Strict liability means that the owner will be responsible for medical expenses if the animal causes an injury, without having to show any negligence on the part of the owner. The strict liability rule applies when a dog has been determined by the local animal control authority to be a “dangerous dog.”  A “dangerous dog” is one that attacks and injures a person or other animal without provocation or behaves in a threatening manner toward a person or other animal. If your dog is determined to be “dangerous,” you will be responsible for medical or vet bills if it injures a person or animal. In New York, the owner of a “dangerous dog may  also be required to spay or neuter the animal, keep it confined or muzzled, and/or have the dog micro chipped. In extreme cases, the dog may be euthanized. More information about New York’s strict liability laws may be found by talking to Syracuse personal injury attorneys O’Brien and Ford, or visiting the websites of personal injury specialists.


One Bite Rule

For damages beyond medical expenses, such as pain and suffering, New York and many other states follow a “one bite” rule. If your dog has previously bitten someone, or has “vicious propensities,” you may be responsible for non-medical damages, which could be extensive. A  dog has “vicious propensities” if it has a history of threatening behavior like lunging, snarling, or barking at people. For more detailed information, find a person injury attorney in Buffalo, New York, or in your area.



If your dog is harassed, injured, or provoked, you are not responsible if it threatens or bites the person who is harassing it. A security camera may be a good investment if you have a large dog, or if you have neighbors who seem to fear or dislike your dog.


What if Your Dog Bites The Mailman?

It might seem to be a cliché, but postal workers are attacked by dogs pretty regularly.  The same rules apply for postal workers as for your neighbors and others, except that the postal worker is also covered by worker’s compensation insurance. While liability for injuries may not be as much of an issue, the postal worker who comes by your house every day may report your dog to the animal control authority as “dangerous.” If your dog is very territorial, or tends to bark at strangers, it is advisable to keep in indoors, or confined in an area far from the mail route, during the times when your mail carrier usually makes his rounds. For more information about worker’s compensation for dog bite injuries, check out some top-rated workers compensation lawyers in Rick Hill, S.C., or in your state.


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