Personal Injury And Medical Malpractice Attorneys

What should I do if my child was bit by an off-leash dog?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2022 | Premises Liability |

  1. Get the necessary medical attention for your child
  2. Call the police

Dog bites can lead to illness and injury, particularly when the victim is a child. A serious dog bite needs medical attention as the injuries could require stitches or surgery. It is also important to have a medical professional check the site for possible infection and, if necessary, monitor and discuss how to handle the potential of exposure to rabies. A dog bite often requires additional treatment or rehabilitation after the attack — both physical and emotional.

How can I help my child with the emotional trauma of the accident?

We know medical professionals are likely needed to help physical wounds, but what about the emotional scars? One of the questions kids often ask after a dog attack is “why me?”. It can help to know the basics about why dogs bite to help your child navigate this difficult question. A recent study out of Michigan State University dug into this question and found that dogs were most likely to bite when they were off leash in their own neighborhood. The researchers found the nature of the victim generally did not matter.

Instead it was more the mindset of the dog, the on-the-run mentality that significantly increased the likelihood of an attack. Letting your child know that it was likely the dog and their owner who contributed to the accident, not the child’s actions, can help them deal with the trauma of the attack. Counselling and other professional help can also prove beneficial.

What if the owner does not have the dog on a leash at the time of the attack?

New Jersey does not have a statewide law regarding the use of leashes; this is left to local lawmakers, and each neighborhood may handle it differently. Some have put regulations in place and issue fines and penalties when a dog owner fails to keep their dog on a leash. Regardless, call the police and report it. You don’t want to feel responsible for the next child the dog may bite.

Some towns require owners to leash their dog and the leash must be six feet in length or shorter. They also require that the individual in custody of the dog must be able to control the dog. A violation can result in a fine and even imprisonment for each day the dog is in violation of this regulation.

How do I hold the dog owner accountable for the attack?

When helping our children heal from this incident it seems unfair for the family to have to cover the cost when the expense stems from the actions of another individual’s dog. New Jersey state law holds that a dog owner is responsible for the damages that result from the attack. You do not have to prove the dog had any prior history or was aggressive or vicious. Thankfully, there are legal remedies that can help. This includes medical and rehabilitative expenses.

New Jersey requires the victim to establish three elements to hold the dog owner liable:

  1. The individual was the dog owner.
  2. The victim was lawfully in a public or private place at the time of the attack.
  3. The dog bit the victim.

Once these elements are established, the victim can hold the dog owner accountable for the costs of the attack.