In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding car accidents, motorcycle crashes, and personal injury cases, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Personal Injury Liability In New Hampshire Dog Bite Cases
Under standard common law, it is often stated that the initial victim of a dog bite cannot legally recover monetary damages in a personal injury lawsuit because the victim would be required to prove that the animal’s owner possessed prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive behavior, which is hard to prove if the canine does not have a history of prior attacks. This is often referred to as First Bite Law. While a victim has a legal right to proceed with their case under this NH law, New Hampshire enacted an alternative when the state legislature alleviated injured parties of this burden by voting to pass RSA 466: 19.
This law states:
Any person to whom or to whose property, including sheep, lambs, fowls, or other domestic creatures, damage may be occasioned by a dog not owned or kept by such person shall be entitled to recover damages from the person who owns, keeps, or possesses the dog, unless the damage was occasioned to a person who was engaged in the commission of a trespass or other tort. A parent or guardian shall be liable under this section if the owner or keeper of the dog is a minor.
This statute is classified as a strict liability law. In essence, this means that if a canine attacks or bites another person, the dog’s owner can be held legally responsible for any harm or injuries caused by the animal. If you were attacked or bitten by a dog, and you were not committing a crime or trespassing on someone else’s property, then the dog’s owner is legally required to cover monetary damages for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, present and future lost wages, and negatively impacted quality of life. This strict liability law does not require the victim to prove that the owner has foreknowledge of their pet’s aggressive or vicious tendencies. It is also not required that a victim prove fault or negligence on the part of the dog’s owner.
As a victim, you may be legally entitled to recover monetary damages caused by a canine even if a bite or physical contact was not made. For example, if a dog were to frighten a victim to the point that he or she falls or has an accident on their bicycle or any other actions that cause injury, the animal’s actions can be classified as vicious or malicious. However, if a victim is frightened by animals in general, and the animal’s mere presence causes said victim to injure themselves, then they most likely will not have a claim.
The Comparative Fault statute RSA 507: 7-d also applies to this type of personal injury case. A dog’s owner might claim that the injured victim was partially or wholly responsible for the injuries they suffered based upon how they conducted themselves when the dog acted. If the victim’s actions contributed to the dog’s attack, then their compensation may be reduced. For example, if a victim taunted the animal immediately prior to their attack, then an NH court would most likely find them to be partially responsible for the attack. In order to recover damages, the victim must be under 50% at fault. If they cross this percentage threshold of responsibility, then damages cannot be recovered.
If you have been injured by a dog in the state of New Hampshire, contact our experienced NH personal injury lawyers today to set up a free consultation regarding your case.
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