How is Liability Determined for a Dog Bite?

Dog bites can be extremely serious, and many people do not realize that dog bite injuries often involve animals they know, such as a family pet or a friend’s dog. According to, dog bites also happen more often than many people might think, and both children and adults can sustain debilitating and life-threatening injuries. Every day, on average, 1,000 people receive treatment in emergency departments for dog bite injuries, and about 4.5 million dog bites happen every year in the United States. Of those millions of dog bites, about 20 percent become infected and require additional medical care. Statistics also suggest that dog bite injuries are on the rise, with dog bite claims increasing across the country by about 134 percent over the last two decades, and $882 million paid out in dog bite injury claims in 2021.

When a dog bite happens in Rochester or elsewhere in Upstate New York, who is liable? A Rochester dog bite injury attorney at our firm can provide you with more information about liability and damages in a dog bite case.

State Law Governs Dog Bite Liability

In New York, as in other states across the country, state law governs dog bite liability. Under New York law, strict liability applies when a “dangerous dog” causes injuries. A dangerous dog is defined as a dog for which either of the following is true according to the New York State Bar Association:

  • “Without justification, [the dog] “attacks a person, companion animal, farm animal or domestic animal and causes physical injury or death”; or
  • Dog “behaves in a manner that a ‘reasonable person’ would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to one or more persons, companion animals, farm animals or domestic animals”; or
  • “Without justification [the dog] attacks a service dog or hearing dog and causes physical injury or death.”

When a dog is not a dangerous dog, an injured person typically files a negligence claim against the dog owner.

Strict Liability Versus Negligence for New York Dog Bite Cases

Why does it matter if a dog that bites meets the definition of a “dangerous dog”? In cases where a dangerous dog causes injury in a dog bite, the dog owner will be strictly liable for medical expenses resulting from the injury. In a strict liability case, you do not need to prove that the dog owner was negligent. Instead, merely owning a “dangerous dog” that causes harm is enough for the dog owner to be liable.

A dog owner can also be liable even when a dog does not meet the definition of a “dangerous dog,” but then the injured person must prove that the dog owner was negligent in order to receive damages. Either way, the owner of the dog may be responsible for your injuries if you file a dog bite claim.

Contact a Rochester Dog Bite Injury Attorney

If you were injured in a dog attack, or if your child sustained dog bite injuries, you should seek advice from one of our Rochester dog bite injury lawyers about filing a claim for compensation. Contact King Law today for more information about how we can help you with your case.


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