How Does “One Free Bite” Work in New York?

If you’ve ever been bitten by a dog, you know it can be both extremely painful and incredibly traumatic.

Dog bites can cause several complications, some which can cause long-lasting, debilitating injuries. A few of those complications include:

So after a dog attack, you may be wondering whether you can get compensation from the dog’s owner for your medical bills, as well as your pain and suffering. Especially since even after your wounds are healed, you may be left with scars as a constant reminder of the attack.

Many dog bite victims are left with a lifelong fear of dogs, which can be a serious problem when dogs are a common sight everywhere you go, from apartment complexes to public parks and even private businesses.

In New York, whether or not you can get compensation for injuries caused by a dog usually depends on whether the dog has a history of aggression.

New York’s “One Bite” Law

New York uses a “one bite” law, which means that in order for a dog owner to be held liable for their pet attacking someone, they must have already known that their dog was violent — usually because it’s not the first time their dog has bitten someone.

That’s why this law is also sometimes known as “one free bite,” since if it is the first time the dog has attacked someone, the owner may not be responsible for paying the victim compensation (although it’s possible the owner could be hit with criminal charges).

Can I Prove the Owner Knew Their Dog Was Violent, Even if It Hasn’t Bitten Before?

New York’s dog bite law also allows for a degree of negligence to help decide liability. This means that while previous bites are usually how the court determines whether a dog owner knew their dog was likely to bite, it’s still possible to prove that the owner already knew that the dog was dangerous even if it hasn’t bitten before. And if you can prove that a “reasonable person” would consider the dog dangerous, the owner can still be held liable.

Examples include:

Violent behavior — If the dog has never injured someone before buthas tried and failed to attack before, then it can usually be argued the dog’s owner already knew the dog was violent. For example, if the dog frequently lunges at people, barks or growls viciously, or chases people, these could be examples of violent behavior.

Trained Behavior — If a dog has been trained to attack (for example, the owner may have trained it to act as a guard dog), then the owner obviously knew that the dog was dangerous and capable of attacking, even if they didn’t instruct the dog to attack you specifically.

Non-bite-related injuries — Even sweet, friendly dogs can cause injuries if owners don’t train them not to jump on people. If a dog is known to frequently jump on people, and someone is injured when the dog knocks them down, the owner can be held responsible since they knew it was a possibility their dog could jump and knock someone down.

Is it Possible to Lose My Case, If I’m Attacked by a Dog that Has Bitten Before?

Even if you are attacked by a dog that has attacked before, it’s not always a slam dunk case. There are three major exceptions to the owner’s liability, even if the owner knew the dog was dangerous.

It is important to know, however, that legally walking past a dog’s yard doesn’t count as trespassing or provoking an attack.

While doing this could cause the dog to want to “defend its territory,” and dogs definitely don’t understand property laws, the dog’s owner does. That’s why dog owners have a legal duty to prevent their dog from attacking by putting the dog on a chain or putting up a fence so the dog can’t attack people who are near but not on their property. 

Our New York Dog Bite Lawyers Want to Hear What Happened

Because of New York’s unique mix of “one bite” doctrine and negligence doctrine (when a dog doesn’t have a history of biting but the owner could still be liable because he or she knew the dog was dangerous), it can be helpful to have a lawyer familiar with the state’s dog bite laws to give you every tool possible to get compensation after a dog attack.

And at Catalano Law, we never charge for your initial consultation. Call our Syracuse dog bite lawyers today and let us hear your side of the story.

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