Dog Bites Overview
A dog bite can cause serious injuries. The emotional scars may be even deeper. If the dog that bit you was previously reported for aggressive behavior, you might have a cause of action against its owner based on the legal theory of negligence per se. For more information, contact our Long Island dog bite lawyers today at Winkler Kurtz, LLP.
What’s Negligence Per Se?
Negligence per se is a common law concept in which liability is imposed without a showing of actual carelessness if certain facts are proven. In dog bite cases, negligence per se can arise where the owner knew or should have known that the dog had dangerous propensities—such as prior attacks on people or other animals—and failed to prevent injury by taking reasonably prudent steps.
Understanding New York Dog Bite Cases
The concept sounds intimidating, but it’s actually pretty simple. Here’s what you need to know about negligence per se in New York dog bite cases.
(1) The owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities. If you were bitten by a dog, your burden is to show that the owner knew or should have known of the animal’s propensity to attack without provocation. This is usually proven by showing that the dog had bitten someone before, but you can also prove it by showing that the dog exhibited other aggressive behaviors.
(2) The owner failed to prevent injury with reasonable care. If you can show dangerous propensities and lack of precautions on the part of the owner, then you have shown negligence per se. But you still have to show that the owner’s failure to take precautions was negligent—that is, that a reasonable person in the same situation would have taken measures to protect others from the dog.
(3) The injured party was not at fault. If you were partly or totally responsible for your injury, you cannot collect damages, even if negligence per se exists. This is an application of the general rule that a person who negligently injures someone else cannot recover for his own injuries based on the other person’s negligence.
(4) The injury proximately resulted from the dog bite. If you can prove facts showing all four elements—dangerous propensities, lack of precautions on the owner’s part, negligence on the part of the owner, and your lack of fault—then you have a cause of action for negligence per se. But there are additional requirements that must be met before you can collect damages. If you were bitten by someone else’s dog while lawfully in a public place or on private property, you will not be able to recover if the injury resulted from your own negligence in the “operation of any vehicle,” unless the bite or other injury resulted from a sudden slip or fall while you were walking.
(5) Damages are limited by statute. If you can bring a successful negligence per se claim, damages are limited to medical expenses or other reasonable costs incurred as a result of the injury, and punitive damages are not permitted.
(6) Damages may be reduced by comparative negligence. Even if your dog bite claim meets the requirements for negligence per se, your total recovery can be reduced by any percentage that you were at fault. For example, if your case meets the requirements of negligence per se and a jury awards you $20,000 in damages, but you were 10 percent responsible for what happened, your total recovery will be reduced to $18,000.
Other Important Notes Regarding Dog Bites
In addition to negligence per se claims based on previous attacks by the dog or its owner’s knowledge of such an attack, owners may also be liable under a theory of negligence per quod . In order to establish this theory, you must prove that the dog was in fact dangerous—for instance, there were previous attacks by the animal.
Contact Our Long Island Dog Bite Lawyers
If you’ve suffered an injury due to another party’s negligence, we can help. Dog bites are a serious matter, but our Long Island dog bite lawyers are here to provide you with assistance. Give us a call today at 631-928-800 or fill out the form on our website by clicking here.