New Jersey laws on dog bites use strict liability. Simply put, that means that the owner of a dog who has bitten someone is responsible (liable) for injuries stemming from the bite, even if the owner reasonably restrained the dog or protected or warned the individual prior to the bite. This is a much stricter liability standard than many states employ.
Below are four other facts you should know about dog bite statutes in New Jersey.
- First, an owner is liable when the person is in a private place lawfully or in a public place. An invited guest or a postal carrier, for example, is lawfully on personal property. If a person is trespassing and is bitten, it is one of the few instances in which an owner may not be liable.
- Second, owners are liable whether or not there have been any prior episodes of viciousness by the dog, or whether they have known or not known of any prior viciousness. In other words, unlike in many states, prior knowledge of the dog’s proclivities does not need to be proven. A plaintiff need only prove that a bite occurred.
- Third, many states provide for a defense for the owner if the dog was provoked or abused by the individual bitten. However, New Jersey’s statute does not make this distinction; the owner is still liable regardless of action toward the dog.
- Fourth, the law on dog bites covers only that; it does not cover injuries stemming from dog attacks or actions that cause other injuries. If a dog jumps up in greeting and knocks a child against a table, for example, the dog bite law does not apply, although a negligence claim may be filed in the case of injury.