More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with close to 900,000 of the victims requiring medical attention. A serious dog bite can be a costly and painful injury – if you have been injured by a dog, it is important to understand your rights.
The New Hampshire legislature enacted a stringent law treating dog bites and other dog-related injuries very seriously. The statute says,
“any person to whom or to whose property, including sheep, lambs, fowl, 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 of keeper of the dog is a minor.”
Dog Bite Injuries: Who is Responsible?
Under this law, a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by his or her dog. What this means is that the victim of a dog-related injury only needs to prove that the cause of the injury was a vicious or malicious act on the part of the dog. There is no requirement that the victim prove the dog owner knew the dog had a propensity for vicious behavior. Additionally, unlike in many states, New Hampshire law does not require the victim to prove that the owner failed to take reasonable steps to avoid injury.
Although it is commonly known as the Dog Bite Law, the injury sustained does not have to be directly from a bite. The owner of a dog who scratches, knocks someone down, or even scares someone into a fall or collision can be held liable under the Dog Bite Law. Damage to property, including other domestic animals or livestock can also be a source of liability under this law.
When NH Dog Bite Law is Not Applicable
If the Dog Bite Law is not applicable, such as in the case of a trespasser, there are other ways to hold the owner liable for injuries. In these cases, the victim does need to prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the vicious propensity of the dog. Proving prior knowledge can also be used to sue a landlord. In some instances if the landlord had prior knowledge of the dog's behavior he or she can be held liable even though the dog belongs to or is in the care of someone else. This can be useful in a situation where the owner does not have insurance or funds.
While a dog bite case may seem relatively easy to win, there are many nuances to the law and an attorney who specializes in dog bite and dog-related injuries can help you determine how best to get the compensation you deserve.