When a dog bite occurs, it can come as a complete shock to both the dog bite victim and the dog’s owner. Dog bite victims and dog owners alike may have questions in the aftermath of the attack. What if the dog owner had no reason to think their dog would bite? And does the victim bear any responsibility for the attack?
New Jersey dog bite law
Under New Jersey Statutes section 4:19-16, if a dog bites a person while the person is lawfully on someone’s private premises or on public property and they are injured as a result, the dog’s owner is strictly liable for the person’s injuries. As long as the dog bite victim was not trespassing or provoking the dog, they generally will not be held responsible for the attack.
Strict liability means the dog’s owner can be held responsible for the injuries their animal inflicts, even if their dog never acted viciously in the past and even if they did not know their dog might be vicious.
This may seem a bit confusing at first. If you own a dog, how are you supposed to know that your dog could behave viciously? Well, dogs are animals and like other animals, they have some tell-tale signs that they might behave aggressively.
What are some signs of aggression in dogs?
In general, a dog will bite if it is scared, in pain or feeling protective. Some signs a dog may act aggressively include:
- The dog is hyper-focused on the person its aggression is directed at or, conversely, is trying to avoid that person
- The dog’s ears are pointed forward or up
- The dog is whining, growling or barking at a high pitch
- The dog is circling or jumping up on the person its aggression is directed at
- The dog is licking its lips or yawning
- The dog is ducking down
Some people believe certain “dangerous” dog breeds are more prone to bite, and that owners of these dogs should be prepared for such a possibility. But a dog of any breed can bite, and sometimes, it is the “gentler” breeds that end up biting the most.
Dog owners are responsible for their pets
It is up to a dog’s owner to keep their pet under control. This includes recognizing signs that their dog might bite. Even in the absence of these signs, a dog’s owner can still be held responsible for injuries their animal inflicts on someone else.