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Animal Attacks & Dog Bites


The dangerous or vicious animal in New York.

Attacks by animals happen all the time.  Whether it is a domestic dog biting a child or other person, or a horse acting out of character, there are certain flags or character traits that an owner of a domestic animal in New York must be aware of and take protections against.  Enter the dangerous or vicious propensity.

New York law generally limits recovery in dog bite and animal injury cases to those in which the animal has displayed prior “vicious” or “dangerous” propensities that the owner knew or should have known of.  This means that if the dog has always been nice, has never acted aggressively, and acted this way for the first time in biting you, you could be out of luck.  The law generally requires a showing that the owner had a reason to know that the animal could have been dangerous, and failed to act on it.

Investigation is critical

Properly investigating and determining whether an animal has exhibited “vicious propensities” can be a time consuming task, but the investigation stage is often the most crucial stage of the case.  Contacting and obtaining statements from witnesses and neighbors is one of the most important elements of the investigation, as they are often the best indication of whether the dog or other animal had a history of aggression.  Neighbors will often confirm that the animal had bitten before; had barked aggressively at passers-by; or had tried to attack the mail carrier.  

Vet records can also be helpful, and while they may not be available until later in a case, they can show prior complaints by the pet owner of the animal's dangerous behavior.

How Does a Dog Bite case get handled?

If you or your child were seriously injured as a result of a dog bite or animal attack you have three options.  First, you can do nothing and simply recover.  Second, you can attempt to handle the claim on your own with the insurance company for the owner.  Third, you can hire qualified, experienced, legal counsel to handle the claim for you.  

If you hire a lawyer you can expect the case to have multiple stages.  The first stage, as discussed above, is the investigation stage.  The lawyer needs to find out what happened, form a theory of who was wrong and why, and determine how severely you or your family member were injured.  This happens through proper investigation and through obtaining medical and other records.  

During the investigation, the attorney may suggest that you contact the insurance company for the pet owner, both to find out how much insurance coverage is available to cover your injuries, and also to determine if negotiating directly with the insurance company is worthwhile. 

Some lawyers on TV will tell you that they can get you a "quick settlement with the insurance company."  This may be true, but it may not always the best course of action for you or your family member.  The insurance company will often make an offer to settle the case short of an actual lawsuit, but you need to be aware of all of the factors involved before agreeing to waive your future rights.  You need to be sure that, under the circumstances, the amount of money that you are receiving is fair in light of each of these factors, and adequately protects you or your child.  

If you cannot reach a reasonable settlement with the insurance company, the next stage in the process would be to file a lawsuit against the owner of the animal.  This means that you are taking formal action, in court, to hold the owner accountable.  Keep in mind that if there is insurance, the insurance company will very likely be paying for the defense and will ultimately be responsible for paying any recovery to you or your family (within the limits of the insurance policy).

Lawsuits for injuries from dog bites or animal attacks typically last anywhere from 9 to 18 months.  There are a number of steps before a case ever gets to trial, and practically most cases resolve before a trial is necessary.  It is critical, however, that if you hire a lawyer to handle a dog bite or animal attack case, you are confident that the lawyer is ready, willing, and able to proceed to trial if necessary.  This willingness is critical to obtaining the best possible result. 


There are a few key elements of damages available to victims of dog bites and animal attacks.  

Damages for past pain and suffering.  These damages are meant to compensate you or your family member for the pain that they have suffered to date because of the dog bite or attack.

Damages for future pain and suffering.  These are damages that estimate how much pain you will have in the future as a result of the dog bite or animal attack.  This includes a calculation based upon your life expectancy and expected level of pain, discomfort and future medical needs.

Medical expenses.  This includes damages for expenses related to care for your injuries, including future medical care.

Emotional distress.  This compensates for the emotional component of the injury.  Injuries from animal attacks often come with significant psychological stress, including fear of animals in the future.  This is compensable in a dog bite or animal attack lawsuit.

Punitive damages.  Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer for severely negligent or intentional conduct.  They are rarely awarded but are available in certain cases.  

Animal attacks and dog bites can have a devastating impact on a family.  If you have been injured by the dangerous actions of an animal, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible so that this investigation can begin. We have experience interviewing witnesses and reviewing veterinary records to determine whether this animal has shown vicious propensities in the past, and obtaining good results for clients in difficult cases.  Contact us today.

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