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Child Injuries from Dog Bites

Middlesex County Attorneys Representing Victims and Their Families

A dog bite can wreak serious havoc on a child, not to mention pain, trauma, and potentially lifelong disfigurement. Children who are hurt by a dog bite have certain rights under New Jersey law, including the option of filing a legal action against the owner of the dog. A successful case for child injuries from dog bites can result in substantial damages – money that can reimburse medical expenses and help with other losses caused by the dog bite. At the law firm of Siegel & Siegel, P.C., our Middlesex County dog bite lawyers help people who have been injured by dog bites in Middlesex and Mercer Counties seek fair compensation for what they have been through.

Establishing Liability for Child Injuries from Dog Bites

In most cases involving an injury on someone else’s property, such as a premises liability case arising from inadequate maintenance, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent – that is, that he or she acted in a way that was not reasonably prudent under the circumstances. Proving negligence requires the plaintiff to submit evidence showing four specific elements: duty of care, breach of duty, damages, and causation. Each of these elements must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in order for the plaintiff’s case to be successful. In cases in which a dog injured a child in some way other than biting him or her, negligence must be proven. For example, this theory applies to scratching the child or tripping him or her and causing injuries in a fall. Dog bite cases are different, however.

In some states, the plaintiff must prove that a dog had a dangerous propensity or had previously bitten someone before the defendant can be held liable. The idea behind this rule is that a pet owner should not be held liable unless he or she was negligent by continuing to own a vicious dog or allowing the dog to be in a position to harm someone else. Fortunately, this is not the law in New Jersey. Here, the state legislature has passed legislation (N.J. Statutes § 4:18-16) holding dog owners strictly liable for damages caused by their pets if certain circumstances are met. The strict liability rule is based on the premise that animals are, by their very nature, unpredictable and that people who choose to own a dog should be legally accountable for its actions.

In addition to covering only injuries only from bites and not injuries from other potentially harmful actions of a dog, the provisions of the strict liability statute only apply if the victim was on public property or was legally present on private property when the bite happened. In other words, if a child is bitten while trespassing on someone else’s land, the strict liability statute does not apply. Our lawyers can help you assess whether it applies in your case and devise a strategy against a potential argument that it does not apply.

It is important to note that the strict liability law for dog bites does not automatically hold the dog’s owner 100% liable for all of the damages in each case. Since New Jersey adheres to the modified comparative fault doctrine, it is possible that the victim’s own fault could reduce his or her damages award – or even prevent any recovery at all if the child was more than 50% to blame. Comparative negligence might be found if, for example, the child had been teasing or taunting the animal prior to the bite.

Get Advice About a Dog Bite Case from an Attorney in Middlesex or Mercer County

Like other types of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, each case involving a dog bite hinges on its own facts. An experienced injury attorney can help you understand how the law applies to the circumstances of a case involving child injuries from dog bites and assist in your attempt to hold the responsible animal owner liable. At Siegel & Siegel, P.C., help is just a phone call away; you can reach us at 609-799-6066 or online to schedule a consultation regarding your case. We represent people in Plainsboro, Cranbury, South Brunswick, North Brunswick, New Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Trenton, Princeton, Hamilton, and West Windsor, as well as other areas of Middlesex, Mercer, Burlington, Union, and Monmouth Counties.

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