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Can You Sue a Pet Owner for a Dog Bite Injury in New York City?

There are about 600,000 dogs in New York City today.  Many are capable of inflicting serious injuries.  If you or your child was bitten by a dog in New York, you may be able to get compensated for your medical bills, lost earnings, and other hardships resulting from the attack. In this article, our New York neck injury lawyers will go over leash laws in New York City, and, even more importantly, owner liability for dog bite injuries.

New York City Leash Laws

New York City’s leash laws are simple, but strictly enforced.

Dogs cannot roam freely on the streets of New York, even if their owner is right there to observe them.  All dogs, regardless of breed, age, size, or other factors, must be restrained on a leash no longer than six feet in length while out in public.  Not only do owners who ignore this law risk hefty fines from the Parks Department or the Department of Health and Sanitation – they also jeopardize the safety of those around them.

Even a well-behaved dog can easily cause a person to have a serious slip and fall accident if not properly restrained at all times.  Accidental falls cause millions of deaths and injuries every year, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI).  TBI can cause serious cognitive impairment and physical impairment.  Additionally, brain injuries increase the risk of dementia and stroke.  Sadly, in many cases the victim loses some of the physical and financial independence they formerly enjoyed.
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When is a Dog Owner Liable for Bite Injuries Caused by Their Pet?

When it comes to dog bite injuries, most states follow one of two systems for determining fault: strict liability, or the “one bite rule.”

In strict liability states, the defendant is automatically liable as long as the bite victim did not provoke the dog and was not on the property unlawfully (e.g. trespassing or attempting to burglarize the dog owner’s house).

In states that follow the one bite rule, determination of liability is more complex.  Under the one bite rule, courts examine:

  • Whether the dog’s owner knew, or had reason to know, that the animal could bite someone.  The standard of proof for demonstrating this fact is a “preponderance of the evidence,” which means the plaintiff must prove it was more likely than not.  This standard of proof is more relaxed than the standard of proof (“beyond a reasonable doubt”) in criminal cases.
  • Whether the dog’s owner exercised the precautions that were necessary to minimize the risk of a foreseeable bite injury occurring.  A person who causes the injury or wrongful death of another due to his or her failure to exercise due care is negligent, and may be held liable for the victim’s medical bills and other expenses.
  • The concept of negligence arises in all types of personal injury cases, not just those relating to dog bites.  Proving negligence is a vital part of getting compensated for a New York car accident, a New York bicycle accident, or any other type of accident in New York.

New York is somewhat unusual in that it combines elements of strict liability and the one bite rule.  As a result, New York is sometimes described as a “mixed state.”  On one hand, strict liability exists in that dog owners are responsible for the victim’s medical costs, such as medical bills for hospitalization, stitches, sutures, casts, exams, and X-rays.  On the other, the victim must prove they did not provoke the dog and were not trespassing, committing burglary, or otherwise on the property where the incident occurred unlawfully.

The amount of compensation a dog bite injury victim can receive depends on factors like the severity of the victim’s injuries, and the extent to which the victim lost income and future earning capacity.

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Contact A New York Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation

The New York dog bite lawyers of Sullivan & Galleshaw have more than 30 years of experience helping injured New Yorkers fight for injury compensation.  Thanks to our aggressive approach, our encyclopedic legal knowledge, and our absolute commitment to our clients, we have successfully recovered millions of dollars for injury victims in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and throughout the New York metropolitan area.  We may be able to help you and your loved ones, too.

To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation with a New York personal injury attorney, call the law offices of Sullivan & Galleshaw at (718) 843-0300.  We handle a wide range of personal injury claims in New York City, including common dog bite injuries such as facial injuries, neck and throat injuries, bone fractures, lacerations, puncture wounds, sprains and strains, soft tissue injuries, and permanent scarring.


Over our many years practicing personal injury law, our highly experienced legal team has earned a reputation for excellence. Our attorneys have appeared on major media outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC . Our firm’s legal accomplishments have been profiled by the New York Law Journal, the Los Angeles Times, ESPN, and the Associated Press. We have won multiple verdicts in excess of $1 million, making us proud members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious organization which admits fewer than 1% of all attorneys in the United States. We were named Super Lawyers in 2011, and enjoy a perfect 10/10 Superb rating on national attorney database Avvo.

Speak to one of our attorneys about your case for free.

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