A video of a dog attacking a woman on a New York subway has recently made national attention. According to reports, the dog owner put the dog in the seat beside him. Witnesses said the woman asked the man to move the dog, and an altercation between the passengers occurred. The dog then bit the woman’s shoe and would not let go. When the owner finally pulled the dog away from the woman, her shoe came off. Fortunately in this case, reports indicate the woman was not seriously injured. Some people, however, are not so fortunate. New York dog bite attorneys know that the law surrounding dog bite liability can be very complex.
The owner of a “dangerous dog” is strictly liable for medical costs resulting from injuries the dog causes, unless the dog is determined to have been justified in its actions or the injured person was engaged in certain specified criminal acts on the dog owner’s property. A municipal judge or justice makes the determination regarding whether a dog is dangerous.
The statute only provides for strict liability for medical expenses, but it also specifically states that it does not limit or abrogate the claims of a person who is injured by a dog with a “vicious disposition.” To recover other damages, the victim must show that the dog had a “vicious propensity” and that the owner knew or should have known of that propensity.
A “vicious propensity” does not require that the dog has shown a tendency to bite, however. It doesn’t even require that the dog be vicious, as the term is commonly understood. Courts have ruled that friendly jumping may be considered a vicious or dangerous propensity. “Vicious propensity” simply means that the dog has a tendency to act in a way that might endanger the safety of people or property. The owner of a dog known to have a tendency for jumping may be held liable for injuries caused by the dog’s jumping, but they may not be held liable for biting injuries, if the dog did not have a propensity to bite. An owner may be liable for a bite, however, if the dog had a known propensity to growl, snarl, or bare its teeth.
In some circumstances, a landlord may be liable for injuries caused by a dog kept on the landlord’s property. The landlord may be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog if the landlord had notice the dog was being kept on the property, knew or should have known the dog had vicious propensities, and had sufficient control of the property to either remove or confine the dog.
Since liability is based on the dog’s propensities, it is important for victims and witnesses of dog attacks to ensure there is a record of the incident. One way of creating a record is to file a complaint and possibly seek a determination that the dog is dangerous. Additionally, since dog bite injuries often occur on the dog owner’s premises, the dog owner’s or landlord’s homeowners insurance may cover some medical expenses without regard to negligence. Before taking any action, however, a dog attack victim should contact a skilled personal injury attorney, who can advise and help them through the process. If you have been injured by someone else’s dog, an experienced New York premises liability attorney can assist you. Call the Law Offices of Marc S. Albert at 1.855.252.3788 to discuss your case.
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