Dog being aggressive towards people who pass by
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By Joseph Dell
Managing Partner

Dog bites can cause serious injuries. Unfortunately, dog bite victims often find themselves confused about their legal rights. This is partially due to what is commonly referred to as the “one-bite rule.” Under the one-bite rule, a dog bite victim generally can’t obtain compensation for a dog bite injury unless that dog has bitten someone previously. However, not all states follow this rule, and there are often exceptions to this rule in the states that do. In this article, we examine the role of the one-bite rule in New York dog bite cases. 

Strict Liability and the One Bite Rule

Most states either apply strict liability or the one-bite rule to dog bite cases. Under the strict liability system, a dog owner is responsible for any harm caused by his or her dog, regardless of whether the owner knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities. However, under the one-bite rule, a dog owner is not responsible for an injury caused to a person by his or her dog if the owner had no knowledge that the dog was dangerous. Thus, under the one-bite rule, a dog is not actually allowed one free bite under all circumstances. 

The New York Law

New York combines aspects of strict liability and the one-bite rule. Under New York’s system, if a dog’s owner knows (or should have known) of his or her dog’s dangerous propensities, then the owner can be held liable for any resulting damage the dog causes. However, even if a dog hasn’t exhibited dangerous behavior in the past, its owner can still be held liable for an injury caused by the animal if the victim can prove negligence on the owner’s part. For example, if an owner fails to keep his or her dog secure, and the dog escapes and bites someone, then the victim may be entitled to sue the owner. 


There are some exceptions to New York’s dog bite rule. For example, police dogs in the line of duty are exempt from the above law. And if a dog bites someone while justifiably protecting itself or its offspring, then its owner will not be found liable for any resulting injuries. 


Depending on the circumstances, the owner of a dog who bites someone may face civil or criminal fines. In addition to covering a victim’s damages, the owner of a dog who bites a person can face a fine of up to $400. And if a person’s dog causes serious injuries, then the owner may be fined up to $1,500. In addition, in cases in which a vicious or dangerous dog causes a serious injury, the owner can face a criminal fine of up to $3,000, a 90-day jail period, or both.

Contact a Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer 

If you’ve been bitten by a dog in New York, Dell & Dean, PLLC, is on your side. When you come to us for assistance with your New York dog bite case, we will aggressively seek financial compensation on your behalf. Please contact us today to schedule a meeting with a personal injury lawyer

About the Author
Joseph G. Dell, the firm’s Managing Partner, is regarded as one of New York State’s top trial lawyers and a zealous advocate of those injured through the negligence of others. Having founded the firm in 1994 with the singular goal of leveling the playing field for those injured, Mr. Dell has worked tirelessly for his clients since its inception. In addition to meeting with clients on a daily basis and trying cases, Mr. Dell is a frequent lecturer at Law School and Bar Associations on cases of significant importance in the fields of negligence and medical malpractice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact Mr. Dell here.