FAQ: My child was attacked by a neighbor's dog – is there anything that I can do? Or, put another way, my dog bit a neighbor's child, am I at risk?
In New York the owners of domestic animals have to be careful. Under the law if the animal has a history of what are known as “vicious propensities” the owner is absolutely responsible for any injuries that the animal causes. So, what does this mean? Well, it used to mean that a dog got “one free bite” as they say, but that is not so much the case anymore. If a dog has a history of acting aggressively – by trying to attack passersby, by fighting aggressively with other dogs, or in some cases by aggressively barking at people – the law often says that the dog has vicious propensities.
In this case even though the dog may not have previously bitten anyone, the owner is still responsible. So if your child was bit by a local dog ask yourself whether you recall the dog acting aggressive in the past. Often when you think back you realize that it did. Sometimes though you don't know. In that case we always suggest contacting a lawyer because there are some things that can be done to check and see if the dog has a history. Vet records may reflect a history of aggressive behavior, or concerns by the owner. Talking with other neighbors also sometimes reveals a history that you did not realize was there.
Often people are hesitant to contact an attorney in these situations, because the dog owners are typically acquaintances. Well we won't make that decision for you, except to tell you that in nearly every case the owner has some form of insurance that will cover the claim – typically homeowner coverage. So if you or a child has suffered a significant injury as a result of an animal attack and you have questions give us a call, we're happy to help.