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Law Group, P.C.

Who is Liable for Service Dog Attacks?

January 27, 2022

If you have been injured by a service dog who bit you, you may be wondering how you can recover compensation for your medical expenses and lost income. Under New York law, dog owners are liable for attacks by their dogs. The amount you can recover and what you will need to prove to recover compensation will depend on the facts in your case. When a service dog has bitten you, the process for recovering compensation can become more complex. The dog’s history and training will already be well-documented because it is a service dog. This documentation could cast doubt on your version of how the bite happened. Working with an experienced attorney can help you obtain the compensation you deserve after being bitten by a service dog.

New York’s Dog Bite Law

Some states impose strict liability when dog bites happen. In these states, the dog’s owner is always liable to pay for damages caused by the bite, no matter the circumstances. In these states, the dog bite victim doesn’t even need to prove that the owner acted negligently. They only need to prove that the dog bit them. Other states require victims of dog bites to prove that the owner acted negligently to recover compensation. New York follows a combination of these two rules called the one-bite rule.

In New York, dog owners are liable when their dogs bite or attack someone as long as the victim can prove that the dog’s owner knew of the dog’s dangerous tendencies. This rule can also be called the dangerous dog rule. Dog owners are only liable to pay the victim’s expenses when their pet had already been deemed a dangerous dog before the bite happened. A dangerous dog is defined as an animal that has hurt or killed someone in the past. When a dog behaves so that another person feels the dog poses a serious and unjustified threat of injury or death, the dog is considered a dangerous dog. Pets and service animals are not the same, however. How does New York apply these laws to support animals? 

Emotional Support Dogs are Not Service Dogs in New York

If a support animal has bitten you, the first step in obtaining compensation is to understand the difference between service dogs and support dogs. Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as one that is trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities. To be deemed a service dog, the animal needs to perform tasks that the owner cannot perform. On the other hand, support animals are not necessarily working animals. 

They provide their owners with support and comfort emotionally, but they are not professionally trained to do particular tasks to assist their owner with a disability. This distinction is important. Restaurant owners, store owners, and anyone else dealing with the public cannot refuse a service animal entrance. They do not have the same obligation to support animals, meaning they can refuse to allow support dogs onto their establishment.

Under New York’s dog bite laws, support dogs are treated the same as any other pet or animal. However, service dogs are entitled to more protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a service dog has bitten you, you may have a more difficult time obtaining compensation. If a support dog has bitten you, you may be able to take legal action against the owner as long as you can prove that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous or had already been deemed a dangerous dog. 

Imposing Strict Liability on Service Dogs

The breath of strict liability makes it the most viable path to recovering compensation if you have been bitten by a service dog. If you were bitten by a service dog, it is possible that it was not a service dog and was actually an emotional support dog. If it is an emotional support dog, it could be easier to prove negligence and obtain compensation for your injuries. Service dogs have a well-documented history of good behavior and extensive training that could show that the dog did not have any prior threatening behavior. Service dogs are kicked out of service dog training programs if they show any signs of being dangerous. 

However, if you have been unjustifiably attacked, you will not need to show that the service dog behaved dangerously or was considered a dangerous dog. Instead, you will only need to show that the bite was unjustified. For example, if the dog came up to you while you were sitting and eating and bit you, that would be an unjustified attack. In that case, you would need to show that the dog was a dangerous dog before biting you. Most service dogs wear vests that warn bystanders not to pet or bother the dog, helping the dog owner prove that the dog bite was justified. 

What Costs Can I Recover?

When a dangerous dog bites someone and causes physical injury, the owner is strictly liable. The dog bite victim does not need to prove that the owner was negligent in obtaining compensation. This law makes it easier for victims of dog bites to obtain compensation as long as they can prove that the dog was dangerous. Under New York Stock by law, the owners who are strictly liable for your injuries must pay your medical costs. However, you will not be able to try to recover compensation for your diminished earning capacity, lost income, pain, or suffering. 

About Harrison Law Group, P.C.

The Harrison Law Group, P.C. is a well-known, and respected personal injury law firm who is exclusively dedicated to handing a wide range of personal injury cases which include but are not limited to motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, dog bites, traumatic brain injuries, serious and catastrophic injuries, soft tissue injuries, construction accidents, and many other injury cases.

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