Dog Bites Can Be Devastating. Is the Law on Your Side?

Dog Bites Can Be Devastating. Is the Law on Your Side?


{2:30 minutes to read} Dog bites often cause the most severe physical and emotional injuries. When a seemingly friendly dog unexpectedly bites someone, deep tissue injuries and infection can occur. Treatment for these injuries often includes many surgeries and a slow, painful, recovery. Dog bites can leave disfiguring scars on parts of the body that are visible when the person is in public, such as on their face, arms, or legs, and are a permanent reminder of the animal’s attack.


New York’s law holds a dog owner responsible for the injuries caused by the bite if the dog has a “vicious propensity.” That is, if the dog has a prior history of biting at least one other person, the dog’s owner will be fully responsible for paying money damages to the victim for their physical and emotional suffering. However, if the dog had never bitten anyone before, the owner would not be responsible. Lawyers call this the “one free bite” rule.


That rule is a little misconceived though; if the owner knew or should have known of the animal’s viciousness, they’ll still be held liable. For example, the owner of an attack dog may still be responsible for his dog’s first bite if the dog was bred or trained to harm people.


There are other types of animal attacks where the “one free bite” rule may not apply. Recently, a New York court decided that a dog’s owner might be responsible when the dog jumped on and injured a small child. The judge ruled that if the owner knew that her dog jumped on people and presented a risk of physically injuring a small child, she would be responsible for the child’s injuries, even though the dog had never bitten anyone.

The personal injuries suffered in animal attacks can be devastating. People who are harmed by animal bites should consult an attorney to learn their legal rights. Call us at 212-809-4293 or email us at

Ron Katter

Katter Law Firm
Phone: 844-WAS-HURT
Alt Phone: 212-809-4293



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