Proving a New Jersey Dog Bite Case
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The State of New Jersey has strict liability laws surrounding dog bites, which mean that a dog's owner is held liable for any action of his or her dog. When put into practice, however, proving your claim can be a complicated affair. Each dog bite case is different, and each individual element must be thoroughly investigated.
One of the most important elements in any dog bite case is identifying the dog involved in the attack. A positive identification by the dog attack victim, any witnesses, and the dog's owner is vital. Sometimes a dog cannot be positively identified at first. Perhaps the dog is a stray dog loose on the street, or the dog's owner cannot be found at the time of the attack. In such incidents, the dog can still be identified by noting the size, color, any distinguishing marks, and the place of the attack. Witnesses are often very helpful in positively identifying a dog involved in an attack.
The dog’s owner is a key element in any dog bite case. The owner can provide information about the dog's history, including any past violent behavior or any other aggressive acts that have taken place. Neighbors are also helpful, and can often paint a thorough picture of the dog's life with its owner. In many cases that we've seen, guilty dog owners treat their dogs poorly, engage the animal in fighting, or show aggressive behavior themselves.
After being attacked, it’s crucial to gather as much evidence as possible to support your dog bite claim.
- The first thing you should do is seek medical attention. This is important not only for your recovery, but also so there’s a record on file of your injuries and the treatment you received. Dog bites require specialized treatment to prevent further complications from developing. It’s crucial for medical professionals to address the skin damage, injuries to the underlying tissues, and infection. If a dog bite victim does not receive the proper medical care, this can be another element of the personal injury claim. Patients may get rabies, which can have long-lasting effects or kill. When victims are given improper initial treatment, they will require more compensation to help recover from their injuries.
- It’s also a good idea to make an official report of the incident with the police and your local animal control. Be sure to get all of the dog owner’s contact information, including name, address, and insurance. Ask for the breed of the dog, as some are known for being aggressive, which can have a major impact on strengthening your case.
- Without putting yourself in more danger, take pictures and video of the dog and the scene of the attack. Oftentimes, a dog’s aggression can be caught on camera and used as powerful evidence. It’s also essential to show if there were elements in the dog’s surroundings that allowed it to escape and attack, such as a broken-down fence. In addition, take photos of your injuries to prove all the damages that were done in the attack.
- This element requires a lawyer, but it’s an important one: schedule a deposition of the dog owner. During a deposition, the victim’s attorney will ask the owner questions about the dog, its history of aggression, and the incident itself. This is all information that is pertinent to the claim and can be used as evidence should the case go to trial.
While it may be simple to prove that a particular dog was responsible for an attack, it is much more complicated to make a case against its owner. An experienced New Jersey dog attack attorney will investigate and gather evidence that may show that the owner's treatment of the dog could have resulted in the incident and in further acts of violence. A more comprehensive picture of the dog as being dangerous or out of control could mean more money involved in your ultimate settlement.
At Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., our NJ personal injury lawyers have years of experience handling dog bite cases throughout the state. We offer free case evaluations and can begin working as soon as you contact us. We also work most cases on a contingency basis, meaning that our clients only pay us if we win them compensation. Contact us at (609) 240-0040 for more information.
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