New Jersey dog bite laws are broad. Like in any other personal injury case, these laws cover both the plaintiff and defendant. For this reason, we’ll briefly discuss dog bite laws in NJ from two standpoints.
The Plaintiff’s Perspective
If you or your loved one has been attacked and injured by a dog, you can file a claim against the dog owner. However, you carry the burden of proof when you bring such a claim against the defendant. In simpler terms, the jury requires you to prove that the defendant’s dog is responsible for your injuries.
New Jersey follows the ‘strict liability rule, which assumes that the dog owner is liable if their dog bites someone. Therefore, such a claim might be valid if the plaintiff was on public property, such as a public park, when they got bit by the dog. In addition, if they were on private property legally (meaning they didn’t trespass), the claim might be valid.
The plaintiff can also file a negligence claim against the dog owner. This usually applies only if the plaintiff can prove that:
- the dog owner had a duty to exercise reasonable care by controlling the dog’s behavior;
- the dog owner breached the duty to exercise reasonable care; and
- the dangerous dog attacked and injured the plaintiff due to the owner’s negligence.
The Defendant’s Perspective
The defendant can either deny the claim in part or whole. Let’s look at examples of affirmative defenses for dog bites in New Jersey.
The dog owner can claim that the plaintiff was not on the property legally when the dangerous dog injured them. This could be a case of trespassing. For instance, if the plaintiff broke into the defendant’s property and was attacked by the dog, the court might rule against them. However, it’s important to note that certain legal duties, such as delivering mail, are not considered trespassing.
The defendant can also claim that the plaintiff was partly responsible for the dog bite incident. For instance, if the plaintiff intentionally provoked the dog but the dog was not on a leash, the court might rule that both parties share the blame. In that case, the court might argue that the dog owner should have put the dog on a leash and that the plaintiff shouldn’t have provoked the dog. However, if the court determines that the plaintiff is more at fault than the defendant, there’ll be no recovery of money damages.
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