Animal Bite – When is Owner Responsible?

An animal bite can have devastating consequences. It may cause severe scarring. An animal bite can also cause permanent emotional harm.

When is an animal owner responsible to pay compensation to the victim of an animal bite? In the case of a dog, the victim does not have to prove that the dog previously bit someone. Nor must the victim prove that the animal acted in a vicious manner. (I am referring to New Jersey law throughout this post. Other states have different laws for dog bites and other animal bites.)
animal bite

DOG OWNER RESPONSIBLE FOR BITE EVEN IF NO PRIOR VICIOUSNESS

Rather, with minor exceptions, a dog owner is responsible for any bite inflicted by his or her dog. The owner is liable to pay compensation to the victim, even if the dog never bit anyone before. Indeed, the owner is responsible even if the dog never even acted viciously previously. (One exception to this rule is if the victim unjustifiably provoked the dog to bite.)

BITES FROM OTHER ANIMALS

But what about other animals besides dogs? Is the owner of another kind of pet responsible to pay compensation to an animal bite victim?

OWNER LIABLE FOR ANIMAL BITE IF ANIMAL WAS PREVIOUSLY VICIOUS

The answer is yes. However, in the case of an animal other than a dog, the victim must prove that the animal previously showed vicious tendencies. And that the owner knew about those tendencies, or at least should have known. Or the victim must prove some other negligent conduct on the part of the owner.

Injuries caused by horses, including bites, are a special case. Under New Jersey law, participants or spectators in equine animal activities assume the risk of injury from such activities. (As with most areas of the law, there are exceptions to this exception.)

In other words, the law gives special protection to horse owners. Why horse owners receive special protection is another question. I suspect it has something to do with the financial power of racetracks and horse owners in New Jersey. Show me a special protection under the law, and I can generally show you a lot of campaign contributions to state legislators.

If you are ever injured by an animal bite, never assume that you are not entitled to compensation. See an animal bite lawyer immediately. The law limits the time you have to sue for compensation.

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