When dogs bite: What victims in New Jersey need to know

After suffering a dog attack, victims in New Jersey do have legal recourse to hold the animal owner’s responsible.

Earlier this year, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia had an electrician at his New Jersey home. According to the New York Daily News, the electrician needed to get seven sutures in his leg after one of Sabathia's dogs bit him. The incident left the man out of work for three weeks, and he still suffers from a permanent numbness in his now-scarred leg.

A dog bite can cause serious and even lifelong issues. People in New Jersey who suffer a dog attack should know what the laws are as well as their opportunities for taking legal action.

What the law says

Under New Jersey law, the dog owner can be held legally liable for any damages caused by a bite in either a public place or a private place where the victim has been allowed. For example, the electrician in the above scenario was legally at Mr. Sabathia's home because he was invited there. Postal workers are also protected under New Jersey law, as they are performing a duty imposed by federal regulations. If the person who was attacked either was not bitten or was trespassing on the property, it may be more difficult to recover damages.

The role of homeowners' insurance

A dog owner's homeowners' insurance policy can cover the cost of damages associated with a dog bite. The Insurance Information Institute points out that more than one-third of all policy payouts in 2014 were attributed to dog-related serious injuries. To recover compensation for medical expenses, a victim can pursue a claim through the owner's insurance provider

There are several challenges associated with this process. Many insurance companies my try to shortchange a victim on what is owed, for example. Further, an insurance company will not compensate a dog bite victim for damages such as scarring or pain and suffering. Lastly, some dogs may not be covered by a policy, or a dog owner may lack the appropriate coverage. In these instances, New Jersey victims are permitted to file a lawsuit.

Filing a lawsuit

New Jersey law states that dog bite victims have two years from the time of the incident to file a lawsuit. The state's liability laws note that in order to make a successful claim, the victim must be able to prove the following:

  • That the defendant is the dog owner
  • That the victim was lawfully on the property or was in a public place
  • That the dog bit the victim

Victims should keep a record of all medical bills and related expenses associated with the dog attack. A lawsuit can also provide noneconomic damages, such as a loss of enjoyment of life or the emotional trauma the victim has endured.

People who have questions about New Jersey dog bite laws should connect with an attorney.