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Dog Bite Law in New York: When Is There Strict Liability?

It might seem like a simple area of the law, but across the United States, dog bite law is complicated and difficult to understand. Not only do the scenarios and circumstances of a dog bite vary greatly, but also each state has very different rules and laws. In one state, it could be very clear that the owner has liability for the financial damages resulting from a dog bite, while in another state, dog bite law would dictate a different outcome.

For example, in Alaska or Arkansas, dog bite law adheres to the state’s negligence laws and requirements, while under Georgia’s laws an owner only has liability if the dog is considered a “dangerous animal” (as that is defined in the state). States such as Idaho have a one-bite rule that dictates how liability is assessed and in Maine has different rules for when a dog bite occurs on the owner’s property versus elsewhere.

New York has yet another system for determining liability. New York dog bite law imposes strict liability in any instance when the owner knew of the dog’s dangerous nature, but only holds an owner to regular negligence standards in other situations. What does this mean and how does it impact owner liability for dog bites in the state? Law Office of David S. Leigh, P.C. explains.

What Is Strict Liability?

In most personal injury cases, such as car accidents, motorcycle accidents, and slip and falls, responsibility and liability are dependent on the plaintiff showing negligence or wrongdoing. The defendant must have acted irresponsibly, less responsibly than the average person, in causing an accident or injury. Strict liability does not require the plaintiff to show evidence of negligence, recklessness, or intention to cause harm.

Under the theory of strict liability, a defendant is liable for a personal injury simply by being the cause of the harm. The same concept is applicable to New York criminal law. A person can be guilty of a strict liability offense, such as driving while intoxicated, without any evidence of the defendant’s criminal intent. In the instance of New York dog bite law, it means the plaintiff doesn’t need proof of fault to hold the dog’s owner accountable.

When Is Strict Liability Used in Dog Bite Cases?

New York dog bite law requires a court to impose strict liability when a dangerous dog causes the injury.

Strict liability imposes liability on a dog owner, even when the defendant acted reasonably and responsibly to control the dog or warn about the dog’s habits. Wondering why strict liability is imposed on owners of dangerous dogs? Dog bite law in New York determines that a person has acted irresponsibly or put other people in danger simply by keeping a dangerous dog.

When a dog is found dangerous, either because of evidence the dog was previously aggressive, attacked without provocation, or caused a serious injury, the injured victim doesn’t need to show that the dog’s owner was negligent or reckless in controlling the dog or bringing the dog into a specific environment. Evidence of a dangerous dog and evidence the dog caused the plaintiff’s injuries is all that is needed for a successful dog bite case in New York.

While these cases are an easier path for a plaintiff, it is still necessary to present evidence of the dog’s dangerous nature and that the dog caused the injuries. A dog bite lawyer in New York can help build a strong case.

The exception to Strict Liability in New York Dog Bite Law

If a dog is not designated or found to be “dangerous” then dog bite law in New York requires evidence of negligence or recklessness to impose liability on the owner. In these instances, the dog’s owner is only responsible for medical bills and costs when he or she failed to use reasonable care to control the dog or warn others of the dog’s nature.

A case involving a non-dangerous dog is harder to win. There needs to be evidence the owner failed to exercise reasonable are, in addition to the need to show the dog caused your injuries. In these instances, turn to a New York lawyer with prior experience handling tough, complex dog bite cases. Turn to Law Office of David S. Leigh, P.C.

Our office offers a free initial consultation to any potential client. To schedule your consultation for a dog bite, call our New York office at (212) 843-0907.


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Law Office of David S. Leigh
11 Broadway suite 615, New York, NY, 10004
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(212) 843-0907

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David S. Leigh

David S. Leigh is a New York City Personal Injury Lawyer committed to helping those in the New York Metro area recover and find fair compensation after an accident or injury. 


David has helped my small business (photography) with several proposals and bid letters. He also took the time to explain the language of each letter. I would definitely use David again for all the legal needs of my business! William F Spencer
William Spencer
William Spencer
21:58 30 Aug 16
I worked with David while at the District Attorney's office. David is very knowledgeable in the law. David has outstanding attention to detail and the critical ability to see the big picture, then find and question the inconsistencies in the reports. This is a fundamental skill that makes a good criminal defense lawyer great. I highly recommend David.
Greg Green
Greg Green
20:27 07 Oct 15
David is a tireless advocate for his clients and a consummate professional with whom I've worked on a variety of legal matters. His character and integrity surely set him apart from many of his contemporaries. As colleague, I wholeheartedly recommend David to anyone seeking counsel in the NYC area.
Hari K. Singh
Hari K. Singh
13:32 05 Oct 15
David is a first-rate trial lawyer. Having had the opportunity to both watch him in trial and personally try a case with him, I can say that I would be glad to have him working with me on a case. His delivery is excellent, as is his ability to connect with a jury.
Bryce Allen
Bryce Allen
21:13 15 Nov 15
Knowledgable and great to work withI can't say enough good things about David. My husband needed his help with language for documents he'd need for his business. David was knowledgeable and told us exactly what we needed to hear. I can't think of anyone else I'd want to work with. The next time we need legal counsel, we're calling David.
Yahaira Castro
Yahaira Castro
14:41 28 Sep 15
I was looking for a personal injury lawyer and a friend of mine referred me to David. David is really smart and also great to work with. He really listens to you, works hard and he knows how to get results.
Lili Grossman
Lili Grossman
17:36 29 Oct 18
When my mother suffered back and shoulder injuries due to a car accident, Mr. Leigh went above and beyond to make sure she was rightfully compensated for her traumatic ordeal. He was tough with the insurance company yet very patient with my older mom, as he navigated her through these complex negotiations. He exemplifies what a personal injury attorney should be and we highly recommend him.
Max Patino
Max Patino
19:02 29 Oct 18
David is a top-notch lawyer who is very diligent in all that he does. He is not only a sharp legal mind, but actually has interpersonal skills that make him a caring advocate for his clients. I have had the privilege of working with David in private law practice and can easily say that few attorneys match him in personability, advocacy, verbal ability, and in-court and deposition strategy.
Samae Rohani
Samae Rohani
01:40 30 Oct 18
I was helping my cousin find an attorney and came across David's firm. We contacted him immediately and scheduled a consultation. He was very thorough and provided us with all the details we needed.
03:27 20 Dec 18
Thoughtful, knowledegable and a great attorney. I needed some legal advice and representation. He was everything you could ask for in a lawyer. David is top notch and I would highly recommend him.
Marisa Osorio
Marisa Osorio
21:24 26 Dec 18
David Leigh is a top notch attorney that I have worked with closely. He has integrity, excellent legal ability, and is able to obtain optimal results for his clients. I recommend him wholeheartedly to anyone looking for the highest level of representation.
Stephanie Plana
Stephanie Plana
22:02 18 Jan 19


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