NEW JERSEY DOG BITE LAWYER
Unlike most other states, the liability of a dog owner for a dog bite is governed by statute in New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 4:19-16 provides:
The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in 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.
For the purpose of this section, a person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner when he is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner thereof.
There are a few important aspects of the dog bite statute to point out. First, the statute makes dog owners strictly liability whenever his or her dog bites someone else. Generally, a plaintiff in a personal injury case must prove negligence. This is difficult because many times the plaintiff must find an expert to render an opinion and testify in court as to a defendant’s negligence. In a dog bite case, a plaintiff does not have to do so. Under New Jersey’s dog bite law, an owner of a dog that bites another is negligent as a matter of law. The plaintiff does not have to prove negligence at trial. The plaintiff does not have to prove that the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog was vicious. The issue simply whether or not the dog bit another.
There are a few issues, however, that must be addressed before strict liability is applied to a dog bite case. In many cases, the owner of the dog is not so readily identifiable. Under the dog bite statute, a dog owner is not defined so the courts are often forced to address the issue. New Jersey’s courts have been reluctant to identify a landlord as a dog owner. However, the courts have found that co-inhabitants can both be owners of the dog. Unless ownership is clear, the courts essentially have to determine who the dog owner is on a case by case basis.
Lawfully Upon Private Property
It is also important to remember that the victim must be on the property lawfully. Those that enter the property illegally are generally not able to collect compensation for dog bite injuries. Sometimes, there are issues as to implied invitation. In cases of implied invitation, the issue may have to be determined at trial.
Those injured as a result of a dog that he or she provoked are not usually entitled to compensation. In some cases, a trial is the only way to determine whether the dog was provoked because what is and what is not provocation can be in dispute. Is teasing the dog provocation? Some jurors may so yes and some may say no.
A person injured in New Jersey as a result of a dog bite must therefore show three elements for the owner to be liable:
• The defendant is the owner of the dog;
• The dog bit the injured party; and
• The bite occurred while the injured person was in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property.
Any person injured as a result of a dog bite is entitled to compensation when these elements are satisfied assuming none of the exceptions apply.
The Sloan Law Firm handles auto accident cases in Cranford, Westfield, Mountainside, Clark, Springfield, Hillside, Elizabeth, Plainfield, Garwood, Watchung, Fanwood, Scotch Plains, Berkeley Heights, Rahway, Linden, Kenilworth, New Providence, North Plainfield, Roselle, Roselle Park, Union, Summit, Toms River, New Brunswick, Old Bridge, Edison, Jersey City, Woodbridge, Keyport, Belleville, Bloomfield, Lyndhurst, Perth Amboy, Passaic, Brick, Wayne, Lakewood, Irvington, Morristown, East Orange, Freehold, Paterson, Newark, Clifton, Winfield Park, Bridgewater, Union County, Essex County, Somerset County, Middlesex County, Bergen County, Morris County, Monmouth County, Passaic County, Hunterdon County and throughout New Jersey and can be reached at (908) 358-2938 to discuss any matter.