Dog Bites

People sometimes think that a dog gets "one free bite" before its owner can be held liable for injuries the dog causes to another person; but that is not really true. The rule in New York is that if you are attacked or bitten by a dog, you must prove that the owner had knowledge or notice of the dog’s "vicious propensities." There are some situations in which even before a dog has ever bitten someone its vicious nature is apparent from its past behavior. And sometimes, if the attack itself is ferocious enough, courts have found that the owner "must have" had prior knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities. Once it is shown that an owner had knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities, the owner is "strictly liable" for the personal injuries he causes to others.

You need an experienced attorney to help you prove your case and receive fair and adequate compensate for a dog bite to you or a member of your family. If you have received an animal bite, our White Plains dog bite attorneys will guide you and fight for your right to economic justice. Contact a Westchester County dog bite attorney today.

Demonstrating an animal’s "vicious propensities" does not mean that you must show that the owner knew the dog was actually ferocious or vicious. Vicious propensities, of course, can be shown by demonstrating that the owner knew of a prior bite or attack by their dog. However, vicious propensities of any domestic animal can also include the propensity to do any act that might endanger the safety of a person and/or the property of others. For example, proof that an owner knew that their dog lunges or snarls, or growls, or bares its teeth, or perhaps jumps up on people might be enough to establish awareness of a dog’s "vicious propensities" in certain situations. Or, the mere keeping of a guard dog, or the fact that an owner restrains his dog in a certain way might give rise to an inference that the owner knew of the animal’s "vicious propensities." Each situation is different.

Aren’t certain breeds of dogs considered "automatically" vicious just because of their breed? The short answer, in New York at least, is, "No!" Although a dog's breed is one factor that can be considered as an aspect of its viciousness, its breed, alone, is not sufficient to establish the factual issue of "vicious propensities."

Sample Dog Bite Verdicts and Settlements

In Regina Barnas, mother of Courtney Barnas, infant, plaintiff, v. William Banker, Index No. 01158/99 (Westchester Sup. Ct.), a neighbor’s dog bit a seven-year old girl. The bite tore the corner of the child’s lower lip and required cosmetic surgery. KK&S settled the case before trial for $220,000.
In William Bates & Gloria Bates v. Christopher Baez, C.B. Moving & Handling & 85 Theodor Fremd Ave. Corp., Index No. 03589/00 (Westchester Co. Sup. Ct.), KK&S recovered $165,000 for a 65 year-old man, who was viciously attacked by a guard dog that was not sufficiently restrained by the property owner of a shed that housed antiques.
KK&S settled a “dog sitter’s” case which involved a significant bite to the dog walker’s thumb. Notice of “vicious propensities” was proven when it was discovered during depositions that the owner of the Akita had not told the sitter that she knew that her dog had previously bitten someone.