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Insurance payouts for dog bites increase. Are homeowners always legally responsible?

According to data released earlier this year by the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average homeowners' insurance payout for dog-bite claims was $37,214 in 2015 - a 16 percent increase from the year before, and an astonishing 94 percent increase from 2003. In fact, dog bites and other dog-related injuries now account for a whopping one-third of all dollars paid in homeowners' insurance liability claims, according to the III report.

With the third most dog-bite insurance claims in the nation, New York has definitely experienced its fair share of dog-related problems. Indeed, at an average of $44,320 apiece, the cost of dog-bite claims in New York is much higher than the national average. Given this potential legal liability, many New York homeowners may now be asking themselves, "Am I always responsible if my dog bites or attacks someone?"

New York's dog bite laws, the basics

Given that courts in New York may use a combination of state, county and local laws when determining potential legal liability following a dog bite, it can often be difficult to understand how liability is established.

For instance, if a dog owner negligently permits his or her dog to bite you, either through a specific action or a failure to act, and you suffer a serious injury as a result, the owner may be responsible for paying your medical expenses, lost wages and other related damages. In many cases, a dog-bite victim will need to show that the owner knew, or should have known, of the dog's violent propensities before he or she will be liable.

But, if the dog was previously classified as a dangerous dog under New York law, the owner may be convicted of a crime and face large fines as well as time in jail. In addition, the owner of a designated dangerous dog is always liable for the medical costs associated with a dog attack, regardless of the owner's actions. In some cases, landlords may even be responsible for dog-related injuries.

However, given the vast number of dog-related laws and case precedent that exists in New York, the information listed above barely scratches the surface of what dog-bite victims need to know, and therefore should not be considered legal advice. Quite simply, every case is different, meaning many different laws may apply to your situation. This is why it is always best to contact an experienced dog-bite attorney should you have any questions.

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