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Ouch! You've been bitten by a dog: Now what?

Bike rides, long walks or even just a trip to the corner market can end badly when a dog bites. Whether child or adult, dog bites cause physical and emotional trauma. Is there any recourse against the dog’s owner? Who pays for medical treatment? What about therapy or other mental health treatment?

New York City has some complex laws on dog bites and liability. Let’s offer a clearer understanding.

When is an owner liable?

New York follows the “one-bite” rule. Some municipalities declare dogs dangerous by breed (for example, Pit Bulls, Dobermans and Rottweilers), others by previous behavior, i.e. the dog bit someone in the past, or displays of aggressive and intimidating behavior.

Dog owners are liable when their dog fits this description, and a dog attack occurs.

What can a victim recover?

Dog bite victims can hold an owner liable for the following:

  • Lost wages
  • Loss of consortium (if the attack affects your relationships)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills, including therapy
  • Any property damage incurred

Most homeowner’s policies cover dog bites.

How to avoid an attack

New York City Health advises that children are more at risk. Teach your children to avoid unknown dogs, not to corner them and not to play rough with a dog. Even docile dogs attack when provoked. If you or your child suffers a dog bite, seek medical attention immediately, get the name of the owner and seek legal guidance as you move forward.

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