If you have been the victim of an attack by someone else’s dog in New York, the legal standard for obtaining compensation for your losses will depend on the type of damages you are seeking. If you are pursuing compensation for medical and veterinary expenses, there’s a strict liability statute that governs your claim. For all other types of damages, though, there is greater protection for the dog’s owner.
Essentially, strict liability means that you don’t have to show that the dog’s owner was negligent in any way. You need only show who owned the dog, that the attack was not provoked, and that you were either in a public place or legally on the dog owner’s property. Under such circumstances, you can recover any amounts you must pay for medical expenses or vet bills.
However, for other types of losses, including emotional distress, lost wages or income or loss of consortium, you must show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a propensity to be aggressive or to attack. In this respect, New York is what is commonly referred to as a “one bite state.” Unless you can show that the owner trained the dog to be aggressive toward humans or otherwise had reason to expect that the dog would bite you, the first bite does not impose any liability on the dog owner.
Under the statute, the court may consider “any evidence of a dangerous propensity.” New York courts have construed this fairly liberally, finding liability where a dog has been known to growl, snap or bare its teeth, or where the owner chose to restrain the dog.
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