For many of us, dogs and other pets are an integral part of our lives and our families. My family just adopted our second dog. Many people I know have Instagram pages for their pets! But as loving and playful as dogs often are, they are still animals driven by instinct, which can cause them to respond to frightening or unfamiliar situations with aggression – which can have horrifying consequences for anyone who finds him or herself on the wrong side of a dog’s razor-sharp teeth. The physical injuries that a domestic dog is capable of inflicting may be severe and lasting, and the emotional trauma resulting from a dog attack can create enduring problems in the attack victim’s life long after the physical injuries have healed.
Thousands of years have passed since dogs were first domesticated from their wolf ancestors. In this time, a startling diversity of breeds have been developed, from hulking and powerful mastiffs to tiny and fragile toy poodles, chihuahuas, and my family dog, the Havanese. Dogs have instincts. These instincts lead to behavior that is loving, happy, smart, loyal and devoted to pleasing their families. And dogs also have protective instincts.
Dogs have been bred for herding animals, guarding homes, and pulling sleds, resulting in many breeds with intimidating size and powerful muscles. It is particularly important that larger dogs like these are trained and socialized properly, to help keep them from responding aggressively to stressful situations. However, small dogs still have a predator’s teeth and temperament, and the amount of damage they can inflict is often underestimated because they are “cute.” Every dog needs proper training, both for its own safety and for the safety of others. Despite many dogs loving temperament, dogs can be strong willed and stubborn if not properly trained. Positive reinforcement of good behavior leads to better temperament than negative harsh punishment for mistakes, or bad behavior.
Unlike many of the kinds of accidents I handle at my office, dog bite attacks are less likely to involve the blunt-force impact that causes bone fractures and ligament tears. Instead, the majority of injuries involve puncture wounds, tearing, and scratching damage to soft tissue, often in highly visible and sensitive areas such as the hands and face. Some such injuries may require reconstructive cosmetic surgery to repair and may still leave behind scarring even after surgery. Damage to sensory organs in the face may lead to permanent disability, such as vision or hearing loss. Physical disabilities and disfiguring scarring both have a serious impact on the dog attack victim’s life, limiting their ability to engage in customary activities and curtailing some future opportunities.
The psychological scars left behind by an animal attack may be less readily visible, but often have just as strong an impact on the victim’s life. Being attacked by a powerful animal tap into some of our most primal human fears, and suffering serious injury in any kind of violence can readily result in lasting emotional trauma. Post-traumatic stress syndrome and severe phobias are not uncommon psychological responses to a severe animal attack. While people of all ages may experience these symptoms of trauma, the still-developing minds of children are particularly vulnerable; unfortunately, children are also common victims of animal attacks, as they may not have learned how to modulate their behavior around dogs and might inadvertently hurt or frighten the animal. Dog attacks on children are often more severe, because children are smaller and less able to defend themselves physically from the animal.
Given the potentially devastating impact that a dog bite attack may have on a person’s life, it’s only fair that an attack victim seek compensation for their physical and emotional injuries. This isn’t done to punish the dog’s owner, and it’s highly unlikely that the dog will be put down. Pursuing an injury claim is simply a means of obtaining fair compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and the ways that your injuries have interfered with your life.
Under New Jersey state law, a dog bite victim can pursue damages regardless of whether the dog had ever attacked anyone previously or displayed any other signs of aggression. As long as the victim was on public property or was legally present on private property when the attack took place, the victim has the right to sue. A history of aggression is only noteworthy as it contributes to the victim’s case and helps shape what safety measures were reasonable to expect the dog’s owner to take. However, if the attack victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property, or if the dog’s owner can show evidence that the victim bears part of the blame for the attack (for instance, if they provoked the dog by deliberately hurting or threatening it), the court may deny compensation or reduce the amount that the victim can collect, in proportion to the percentage of fault they are determined to bear.
Though the law itself is reasonably straightforward, the circumstances surrounding a dog bite attack can be complicated and uncertain, making it all the more important that you have an experienced attorney working on your side to guide you through the process and ensure that you get the fair injury compensation you deserve.
Contact MyNJInjuryLawyer Howard P. Lesnik
If you or a loved one suffered an injury in an accident in NJ, you should contact an attorney familiar with handling these claims. An experienced NJ Injury Lawyer will know how to obtain medical records, videos, photographs, experts, locate witnesses and contact the insurance company so you can make a claim for your injuries.
My NJ Injury Lawyer Howard P. Lesnik, Esq. offers complimentary strategy sessions to address any issue or questions you may have for your injury claim in NJ.
Please contact NJ Injury Lawyer Howard Lesnik, Esq., immediately if you were involved in an accident. I personally handle NJ personal injury cases on a regular basis. Please contact me now by email, by phoning 908.264.7701, or by completing the form to the right to schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session. Call me direct and I will answer 5 questions that you have about your potential claim.