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What Is Suffolk County Dog Bite Law?

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Being bitten by a dog can be a stressful and painful event. Dogs bite around 4.7 million people in the United States each year. Children under the age of 15 account for 42 percent of dog bite victims who require medical attention. Dog bites can result in serious injury. Adults are more likely to be attacked by dogs on their arms and hands, whereas children under the age of four are more likely to be attacked on the head and neck.

In Suffolk County, like in the rest of the state of New York, the law for dog bites is a bit more complicated than in other places. Most states either have a “one bite” rule or impose strict liability. One bite rule is used in 16 states across the country and it was once used in all states. One bite rule allows a dog to bite only once without consequences. After that, the owner is aware or should be aware of the dog’s vicious propensities. Strict liability, on the other hand, is used in most states. In states where strict liability is imposed, the owner or keeper is liable for the injury caused by their dog. It does not matter if the dog had previously attacked a person, farm or domestic animal in the past. 

The state of New York uses a combination of these two approaches. If a dog bites you, the owner will be held responsible for your medical bills and veterinary bills (if a domestic animal was bitten) without having to prove that the dog had previously shown vicious propensities. Nonetheless, if you want to pursue further compensation such as lost wages, pain and suffering and punitive damages, you will need to prove that the dog is “dangerous” or if the owner acted negligently and that led to the attack. A “dangerous dog” is a dog that has attacked or bitten a person, farm or domestic animal in the past without justification or if the dog’s behavior can lead a reasonable person to think that the dog represents a serious and unjustified threat to the community. Proving that a dog can be deemed as dangerous is not so easy but with the help of a dog bite attorney, it is possible to gather the evidence necessary to convince the jury. Take into account that a dog that has previously attacked someone that was tormenting it, hurting it or trying to harm its offspring will not be considered as a dangerous dog because it was trying to protect itself and/or its offspring. 

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Is there a dangerous dog registry in Suffolk County?

In Suffolk County, there is no dangerous dog register. There is, however, a Suffolk County Animal Bites Registry. The Suffolk County Police Department maintains a registry of all animal bite reports. This registry is open to the public and can be used to confirm if animals involved in animal bite events have current rabies immunizations.

How do I report a dog bite in Suffolk County?

To report a dog bite in Suffolk County, you can call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services at (631) 853-0333. If you need medical assistance you need to call 911 as soon as possible to request an ambulance. To file a report make sure you have all the information required:

  • The location where the incident occurred
  • The time and date of the dog bite
  • The victim’s contact information
  • Any information you may have of the dog owner or keeper
  • Any information you may have of the dog’s vaccines
  • A description of your injuries and the medical treatment received

Filing a report as soon as possible is crucial if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in the future to recover compensation for your damages. A report is an essential piece of evidence for any dog bite case. Additionally, when you file a report you alert the authorities and they will add this incident to the Suffolk County’s Animal Bites Registry. This will help the community in case the dog bites another person, farm or domestic animal in the future. 

What is the one bite rule for dogs?

The one bite rule dates back to the 18th century in England and was brought to the United States. It was previously used in every state in the country, but most states have moved away from or modified it. According to the one bite rule, a dog may bite a person, farm animal, or domestic animal once without raising legal complications for the owner or keeper. The premise behind this law is that the owner cannot be held accountable for the damage caused by the dog attack because the dog had never attacked anybody before and hence the owner had no way of knowing the dog was dangerous. Nowadays, states that still use this rule have modified it and now it is not completely necessary for a dog to have bitten someone in the past to be considered dangerous. 

Can I sue for a dog bite in New York?

Yes, in New York it is possible to sue for a dog bite. If the dog that attacked you had attacked another person or animal in the past or had shown clear signs of vicious propensities, it can be deemed as a “dangerous dog”. In cases where the owner should have known about the danger that the dog imposes, the victim of the attack can sue the owner or keeper of the dog. 

What damages can I recover?

Because New York is a mixed state (it employs both strict liability and the one bite rule), the damages that an injured person might obtain will vary. Remember that regardless of whether the dog has a history of being vicious, the owner or keeper will be held liable for any medical or veterinary expenditures incurred as a result of the dog attack. However, if you seek compensation for other damages such as lost wages, pain and suffering and punitive damages (rarely awarded) you will need to prove to the jury that the dog had shown signs of being dangerous. Biting, snapping, growling, and other aggressive behaviors are examples of this.

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How long do I have to file a dog bite lawsuit in NYC?

The statute of limitations in New York allow dog attack victims to file a personal injury lawsuit within three years from the date of the incident. Nonetheless, initiating the process as soon as possible will increase your chances of receiving fair compensation. If you do not file a lawsuit in three years or less, your case will be thrown out of court. 

If you have recently been attacked by a dog and you wish to pursue compensation for injuries, contact an experienced dog bite attorney. Greenberg & Stein P.C., is a firm law in New York that handles all kinds of dog bite cases. Our attorneys have worked with numerous clients in the past and have helped them get the compensation they deserve. Our legal team will help you in every step of the process, gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance companies and making sure that you meet every deadline. Contact us at 212-681-2535 to schedule a free consultation to review your case. 

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