Dog Bite Cases are Ruff!

Most people believe that if you get attacked, bit by, or a dog jumps up on you causing injuries to you that you simply contact your local lawyer and wait for your payday.  It’s not so simple – at least here in New York.  New York Law requires that the injured person must prove two essential things:  That the dog has vicious propensities and that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious propensities.  So you ask, what the heck does vicious propensities mean?

Well that’s the $500,000.00 question.  Just because the dog may have nipped a few people in the past may not be sufficient to show vicious propensities!  Just because the dog may have one time jumped up and hurt someone before the incident may not be enough to show vicious propensities.

There are some factors that a jury may consider.  For example, was the dog one that was known to jump on people, even in a friendly way?  That alone won’t win you your case.  Another factor may be that the owner had a “Beware of Dog” sign on their property.  However, if all you have for your proof of vicious propensities is a “Beware of Dog” sign alone, your case will likely be dismissed even before you get to a jury.  You might think that if the dog doing the damage is a pit bull, a German Shepard or some other breed thought to be “ferocious” you will win your case on that fact alone. New York courts will not take judicial notice that a particular breed of dog has vicious propensities as a matter of law!  Another factor you would think should count is the manner of the attack and the severity of the injuries caused.  Well, the courts in New York in different parts of the state seem to differ as to the answer to this possible factor.

In a case we recently settled right before jury selection, we weaved together a web of factors, each one not enough to get us to a jury, but all of which did.  We could have lost anyway as you never know what a jury will do.   And that is why many cases settle.

If you are a lawyer or insurance agent and would like to discuss the above or are interested in the case law in support of the statements above, feel free to reach out to Bruce J. Cheriff or Kenneth S. Fink.