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The Basics of a Dog Bite Personal Injury Claim in New York State

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Peter J. Gregory
Jun 2, 2023
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Do you have a personal injury action claim for financial compensation against the owner of a dog that bit you? Or are you potentially liable for your dog biting a guest at your house or a stranger in public? This article outlines personal injury actions based on dog bite injuries in New York.

There are two key phrases that encompass a dog bite personal injury claim. The first is “strict liability,” and the second is “knowledge of vicious propensity.”

Strict Liability

Strict liability is a form of accountability for dog owners that differs from mere negligence. If it is proven that the owner had knowledge of a dog’s vicious propensity, then the owner will automatically be liable or the dogs conduct and resulting injuries. There is no need to show that the owner deviated from a standard of care other than the knowledge of the dog’s propensity for violence. Just that showing is sufficient to sustain a personal injury action.

Knowledge of Vicious Propensity

The second phrase of “knowledge of vicious propensity” can be broken down into two distinct elements. The first being that the dog had a vicious propensity. The second being that the owner knew or should have known of said propensity.

Proving that the dog had a vicious propensity can come from a multitude of sources, and the more sources of evidence there are the more likely that it will be found. Places to look to find this lay in the dog’s behavior and characteristics. The court will consider evidence such as:

  • prior bites,
  • previous aggressive behavior,
  • beware of dog signs,
  • chasing or barking at traffic,
  • use of the dog as a watch or guard dog,
  • being chained in the yard,
  • growling, barking or snarling when people or other dogs approach, or
  • needing to being muzzled.

Although if any of these are true it does not automatically render a finding that the dog was vicious, but a combination of many of these tends to show a dog has an inclination towards violence. Even without any prior indication or displays of violence by the dog, the attack itself can be used to show that the dog had vicious propensities, as it is well settled that an unprovoked and severe attack can be used to prove vicious propensity.

The second element requires that the homeowner either knew or should have known of the dogs vicious propensities. This deals with the evidence collected within the first element to show whether the owner had knowledge of those events or conditions. If it is proven that those were present, and that the owner was a party or witness to those occurrences, then the owner will be found to have had knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity.

If you or a loved one have been injured due to a dog bite or dog attack please contact us to learn more.

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About the author: Peter J. Gregory is a partner with MCCM Personal Injury Lawyers in Rochester, NY.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. As a personal injury lawyer, Peter focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at or (585) 512-3506.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.