New Jersey takes a position similar to most states by imposing what is known as “strict liability” for damages caused by a pet or domestic animal under your control. Essentially, strict liability means that an injured person does not need to show negligence in order to recover damages. In a typical personal injury claim, as the injured party, you must either show intent, recklessness or carelessness by the person causing the injury. With a dog bite, that standard does not apply.
Accordingly, to recover for injuries sustained in a dog attack in New Jersey, an injured person need only show three things:
- Who owned the dog
- That the dog caused injuries in an unprovoked attack
- That the injured person was either in a public place at the time of the attack or legally on the dog owner’s property
New Jersey does not abide by the “one bite” rule used in some other jurisdictions, which only imposes liability if the owner knows or has reason to know of the dog’s propensity to bite or be violent. Accordingly, a dog owner will be liable under the statute regardless of whether the dog has ever bitten another person, or even displayed any aggression toward someone. In fact, New Jersey holds that, even if the injured person was a trespasser, the owner of the dog may have liability, if the owner has knowledge of prior vicious acts or of aggressive behavior.
To seek damages under the New Jersey law, you do not have to show that the dog attack broke the skin. In addition, liability can be imposed on certain non-owners, including landlords, shop owners and dog sitters.
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