Could You Be Responsible if Your Dog Causes A Traffic Accident? Possibly

A picture of my dog.

A picture of my dog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent national survey of pet owners disclosed that 39% of all households in the U.S. include at least one dog. (1) That equates to a lot of people enjoying the benefits of their canine companions, but with those benefits come responsibilities, some of which are not so obvious. If you need help sorting through the responsibilities and liabilities of dog ownership in Hunterdon County, the personal injury lawyers at Ragland Law Firm of Lebanon can help.

New Jersey has a dog-bite statute which holds the dog owner responsible if his or her dog bites anyone in a public place or on private property as long as the person bitten was on that property lawfully. Under this statute, the dog owner is strictly liable even if he or she had no knowledge of the dog’s potential for viciousness. This statute, however, applies only to dog bites and no other injuries that may be caused by the dog. (2)

So, what happens if your dog gets loose and runs into the street causing an accident? Who is responsible – you as the dog owner; the driver for failing to avoid an accident; or is liability shared? The answer is not so clear cut.

First of all, leash laws in New Jersey are regulated by the individual municipalities. (3) Dog owners who blatantly violate local leash laws could be held liable for damages caused by their dogs as a result. The gray area of liability arises when the owner takes reasonable precautions, but an accident occurs anyway. For example, if a dog owner believes his or her dog is securely contained in the yard, but the dog escapes when someone else enters the property and the dog then runs into traffic causing an accident, it could be found that the accident was no fault of the owner. In order to find the dog owner at fault, negligence would have to be shown.

Some insurance policies may cover injuries caused by your dog. While homeowner’s insurance may cover bites and other injuries caused by dogs, it usually does not cover any injuries that involve motor vehicles; your car insurance may fill in here.

New Jersey State laws are specific when it comes to dog bites; other areas of dog-related injuries are not so clear however. If you, as a dog-owner, are involved in other dog-related injuries, particularly traffic-related accidents in Hunterdon County, the personal injury lawyers at Ragland Law Firm can help. Ragland Law Firm is conveniently located in Lebanon, N.J., which is in close proximity to the towns of Flemington and Clinton.
(1) http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html
(2) http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stusnjst4_19_1_4_19A_17.htm#s4_19_16

(3) http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080904190854AAgNXTf

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