Albany Dog Bite Attorney
Dogs play an important role in the lives of many Albany residents and families. They provide companionship to children and adults in households from Buckingham Lake to Shaker Park. They serve the public in the K-9 Unit of the Albany Police Department. They guide the blind across downtown intersections and through the corridors of the New York State Capitol.
Albany’s dogs, on the whole, make our lives happier and more enriching. Unfortunately, in some cases, dogs may also attack and bite humans, especially children, causing severe injuries in the process.
Finkelstein & Partners represents Albany dog bite victims in legal actions seeking compensation for those injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced Albany dog bite lawyer to learn about your rights after a dog harms you or a loved one.
About Our Albany Dog Bite Law Practice
For more than 60 years, Finkelstein & Partners has provided legal representation to Albany residents, workers, and visitors who suffer injuries because of someone else’s wrongful actions. Our award-winning law firm serves the Capital Region, Hudson Valley, and Upstate New York.
Since Howard S. Finkelstein founded our firm in 1959, helping victims of dog bites has constituted a constant feature of our law practice, for the simple reason that wherever people keep dogs as pets, those dogs unfortunately but predictably bite humans and cause serious injuries.
Over our decades of law practice, we have recovered substantial sums of money for dog bite victims. That does not guarantee we can do the same for every Albany dog bite victim, but it does give our clients reason to have confidence that if they deserve compensation, then we know how to secure it for them.
The Hazards and Trauma of Dog Bites
Dog bites pose the risk of causing significant physical and emotional trauma, especially when young children fall victim.
A dog bite can:
- Tear or puncture skin;
- Rupture tendons, ligaments, and muscles;
- Sever blood vessels;
- Break bones;
- Cause infection;
- Transmit disease, particularly rabies; and
- Leave behind extensive scarring and disfigurement, especially when dogs bite children’s faces.
In rare, but possible, cases, dog attacks can kill. The dog bite prevention organization DogsBite.org reports that over a recent 12-year period, dog attacks led to 433 fatalities. Attacks by two dog breeds, pitbulls and rottweilers, reportedly accounted for three-quarters of those deaths.
Although alarming, the number of dog bite fatalities is tiny compared to the tally of injuries inflicted by dog attacks every year. As the list of injuries above reflects, dog bite injuries can have severe and lasting consequences for victims, especially young children. Albany residents injured by dog bites may need extensive medical care and rehabilitation, and even then, their injuries may leave them with disfiguring scars that lead to embarrassment and social isolation.
At Finkelstein & Partners in Albany, we take dog bites seriously. These are no run-of-the-mill injuries. They involve potentially permanent and costly trauma for which Albany victims deserve compensation.
Our Albany Dog Bite Lawyers Answer Your Frequently Asked Questions
If a dog attacked you or your child and caused injuries at an Albany home or business, you are likely upset, angry, and worried about what the future holds.
Fortunately, New York law permits you to take action against the dog’s owner for damages related to dog bite injuries; it’s best to contact an experienced Albany dog bite attorney as soon as possible to pursue a claim.
Until you have the opportunity to consult an Albany dog bite lawyer, these answers to frequently asked questions about dog bite injuries and the process of recouping losses, offer an introductory overview to get you started.
What is the statute of limitations for Albany dog bite claims?
New York’s statute of limitations for most lawsuits, including dog bite claims, is three years. You have three years from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit against the negligent dog owner who did prevent the dog bite or dog attack.
Although you have three years, it’s best to get the claims process rolling as soon as possible. In most situations, dog attack victims or their parents file a claim with a dog owner’s commercial property insurance or homeowners’ insurance carrier to seek compensation for losses related to the dog bite injuries.
As more time goes by, it’s more difficult to gather evidence to support your claim. In some cases, it’s also difficult to secure witness statements. It’s best to file a claim and consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Failure to take action before the statute of limitations runs out often results in dog bite injury victims missing out on the chance to recover compensation. In some rare instances, courts do grant extensions. For example, if the dog’s owner flees the area, and you cannot serve him or her papers, you may have grounds for the court to pause the time clock.
Do I have to report a dog attack to the Albany police?
No law forces you to report a dog attack to Albany Police or Animal Control, but you probably should anyway. The Animal Control Division of the Albany Police Department will investigate your complaint. If they think the dog is dangerous, they may give a statement under oath in front of a judge.
This documents the attack for an insurance claim and, if applicable, your Albany dog bite lawsuit. If you or your child suffer a dog attack and call 911, it’s likely the police will come to the scene and file a report.
In situations where you went to the emergency room or doctor on your own accord following an attack, you should contact the Albany Police Department as soon as possible to file a complaint.
Will the court force the owner to euthanize their dog?
In some extreme situations, the court might order a dog owner to euthanize their dog.
Specifically, three specific aggravating circumstances must exist:
- The dog was not provoked and attacked someone, leading to serious injury or death.
- The dog has a history of making unprovoked attacks against people that have led to serious injury or death.
- The dog has made unprovoked attacks against other pets, domestic animals, or farm animals, leading to injury or death.
If a court rules to euthanize a dog based on the third aggravating circumstance, animal control must have declared the dog as a “dangerous dog” in the previous two years. Dog owners have 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.
How much money can I receive for my dog bite injuries?
Every dog bite injury claim has distinctive facts and circumstances that impact the value of the claim, making it impossible to predict the financial outcome. Broadly speaking, those who suffer the most severe injuries typically receive more compensation in the form of a settlement or jury award. Severe dog bite injuries include fractures, multiple dog bites, and lacerations that require surgery and/or stitches.
Courts and insurance companies evaluate several things to place a value on a claim.
Common factors that influence the financial outcome of a dog bite claim include:
- How severe are the dog bite injuries?
- Has the dog bite victim suffered a permanent scar or disfigurement?
- How long did the victim have to miss work due to dog bite injuries?
- How much was medical treatment, including ambulance, emergency room visit, hospital stay, surgery, and aftercare?
- How much did it cost to obtain mental health services, especially common for young children who need to cope with the trauma of a dog bite?
- How much pain and suffering did the dog bite victim have to endure?
Dog bite victims do not always get the full value of their claim. Your attorney and the insurance company will come up with different numbers. Your Albany dog bite lawyer can review your case and give you a better idea of what the financial outcome for your claim might be.
What if the Albany Dog owner has no insurance?
Dog bite injury claims are unique claims, to the extent that they can fall under one or more different types of insurance. In most cases, dog bite victims file a claim under the dog owner’s homeowner insurance policy, or a commercial property insurance policy in the case of businesses. Sometimes renters’ insurance also provides benefits.
You are likely unaware of all the policies the dog owner has, so you need to get information for every policy they carry. Sometimes, an umbrella policy related to other property covers dog bite injury claims. Your lawyer can handle communications and get the relevant information to exhaust all possible insurance policies. You might find that the dog owner has insurance coverage that will cover your damages in full.
If the dog owner does not own a home or business and carries no insurance that will cover your claim, you may need to file a lawsuit directly against the owner for damages related to your injuries. While you wait to resolve your claim, your health insurance might cover some or all of your medical expenses, depending on your coverage.
What types of damages can I get for my dog bite injuries?
If you receive compensation for your dog bite injuries from an insurance settlement or jury award, you might recover some or all of the related losses, such as:
- Medical treatment costs, including emergency room visit, surgery, pain medication, and aftercare
- Counseling and other mental health services, especially for young children
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
How long will it take for my Albany dog bite claim to settle?
The answer to this is almost always: It depends. Dog bite injury claims can settle within a few months, but could also take a couple of years or more if the case goes to trial. The typical time a dog bite victim has to wait to resolve their claim lies somewhere in between the extremes.
Many factors impact how long a claim takes to settle or go to trial. If the dog owner is clearly liable for damages and open to negotiation, your case may not need to go to trial. However, if the dog owner argues that you provoked the dog attack or the insurance company downplays your injuries, settlement negotiations might not go as smoothly.
You might even have to go to court, potentially increasing the time you need to wait to resolve your claim. When you meet with an Albany dog bite injury lawyer, he or she can review your case and advise you of any obstacles or challenges that might increase the timeline of your claim.
What should I do after a dog bite injury?
In the immediate minutes and hours after suffering injuries during a dog attack, it’s wise to visit one of Albany’s emergency departments by car or ambulance. New York law permits you to take legal action against the dog owner after you or your child suffers injuries. However, obtaining the best possible outcome for your situation could improve if you take some extra steps beyond simply reporting the event to the Albany police and calling a lawyer.
You can increase your chances of receiving the maximum compensation for your dog bite injuries by following these tips:
- Follow doctors’ orders. Dog bites can lead to dangerous infections, so you must follow your doctor’s orders when caring for your wounds. Go to all follow-up appointments. If you do not follow your physician’s instructions, you create the opportunity for the insurance company to devalue your dog bite injury claim.
- Keep proof of economic loss. Tangible costs of your injury make up a portion of the value of your claim. You need to document your losses, so the insurance company cannot argue against them. Keep all receipts related to your injuries and save copies of all your medical bills. You also need payroll information to prove any lost wages and benefits you incurred as a result of your dog bite injuries.
- Keep an impact journal. The other portion of your claim includes less tangible losses that your lawyer will evaluate. As you heal from your injuries, you must convey how the dog bite has damaged your life or your child’s life. Keeping an impact journal is one of the best ways to record the challenges you face in the aftermath of a dog attack. For example, you should record the physical pain you have experienced and how it has changed. You can also record the emotional challenges you’ve faced, such as dealing with a visible scar.
Should I accept a settlement offer from the dog owner’s insurance carrier?
You should always consult with an experienced lawyer before verbally accepting a settlement offer or signing any agreements. Insurance companies prefer to avoid large payouts, so they sometimes offer quick settlements soon after an injury. These predatory offers tempt dog bite victims, especially those who have incurred significant economic losses.
However, once a dog bite victim accepts an offer, they also waive their right to sue for further compensation for the same injuries. This can leave victims without the funds they need to seek further medical treatment for their injuries, which is often one or more surgeries to deal with a permanent scar. It’s best to let a lawyer review your case and negotiate a settlement that provides fair compensation.
Will my Albany dog bite case go to trial?
It’s common for many Albany dog bite claims to settle before going to trial. This is especially true of dog bite claims in Albany and throughout New York, because dog owners are strictly liable for injuries after their dog attacks someone. Strict liability means that your lawyer does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent, which can provide an advantage to the plaintiff.
Additionally, litigating a case is a costly process that both sides want to avoid. Although it’s unlikely your Albany dog bite case will go to trial, you should be prepared for the possibility. Sometimes settlement negotiations fail, or the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer. In these situations, your Albany dog bite injury attorney may fight your case out in court, and let the jury decide the proper compensation for your dog bite injuries.
Dog Owner Strict Liability Under Albany’s Dog Bite Ordinance
Dog bites are so common, that states across the country have passed laws specifically addressing them. The majority of state laws on dog bites are simple and straightforward in making dog owners liable for injuries and losses their dogs cause to humans in an attack.
And then there’s New York. For reasons too numerous to discuss here, unlike most states, New York state law on dog bites is anything but simple and straightforward. It consists of a patchwork of somewhat complicated and confusing statutes and court decisions that can leave injured dog bite victims and their lawyers struggling to figure out who owes them damages, and how to prove their case.
The potential for confusion over dog bite liability is so widespread in New York that cities and towns statewide have taken it upon themselves to write their own dog bite laws to simplify things.
Albany is one of them.
Since 1994, the city has had a vicious dogs ordinance on its books that states a clear and simple rule of liability for dog bites and other dog attacks that happen within the city limits:
“If any vicious dog causes injury to a person or domestic animal or damage to property while out of or within the enclosure of the owner of the dog or while off the property of the owner, whether or not the vicious dog was on a leash and securely muzzled or whether the vicious dog escaped without the fault of the owner, the owner shall be liable to the person aggrieved by the injury for all damages sustained, to be recovered in a civil action.”
The ordinance defines a vicious dog as any “which bites, inflicts injury, assaults or otherwise attacks a human being or domestic animal or household pet without provocation on public or private property.”
Albany’s vicious dog ordinance is what is known as a strict liability law. It makes dog owners liable for the harm their dogs cause even if the owners do nothing wrong.
Thus, victims seeking compensation from the owner do not need to prove that the dog owner knew the dog was vicious, or that the owner unreasonably failed to take some action to prevent the dog from attacking. In Albany, the dog owner owes damages to the victim simply because the dog attacked and inflicted injury without provocation.
Seeking Compensation for Albany Dog Bite Injuries
Finkelstein & Partners in Albany helps victims of dog bites that happen within the city’s limits enforce their rights under the city’s vicious dog ordinance, and any other New York laws that may apply.
Every Albany dog bite case we handle involves a unique trauma to the victim. We never treat a dog bite case as a cookie-cutter claim. Our clients deserve to have personalized attention paid to their needs and priorities after a dog attacks them, and that is exactly what they get from our team. We work closely with clients to explore where and how an attack happened, who was involved, and the impact the injuries have had on the victim and his or her family. Then, we turn our attention to devising a strategy for obtaining the maximum compensation available from the at-fault parties.
Who Owes You Damages For Your Albany Dog Bite Injuries?
As we described above, Albany’s vicious dog ordinance gives dog bite victims a clear path to seek compensation from a dog’s owner. With the help of an experienced dog bite attorney like a member of the team at Finkelstein & Partners, victims can file a civil action against the owner in Albany County City Court or Supreme Court. Under the vicious dog ordinance, proving a case against a dog’s owner requires only proving ownership, injury, and that the dog was not provoked.
The dog’s owner, however, may not be the only party who owes compensation to a dog bite victim in Albany. Other parties may also bear some responsibility for the attack, and if so, they could face liability under New York law.
- A dog walker or other temporary custodian of a dog who should have taken reasonable steps to prevent the attack;
- A landlord or other property owner, if different from the dog owners, who failed to take action to keep visitors safe from a dog bite attack;
- A municipal police department, if police dog attacks a non-suspect unprovoked, or if its use on an individual amounts to excessive use of force by a police officer;
- A manufacturer of a dog leash or other restraint, if its product proves defective and the dog attacks and injures someone.
These are just a few examples. The point is, at Finkelstein & Partners in Albany, we understand that our clients’ rights may go beyond merely seeking compensation from a dog’s owner under the local vicious dog ordinance. When appropriate, we may also take action against other parties who should face legal and financial accountability for our client’s dog bite injuries under New York law.
What Compensation Can You Receive for Dog Bite Injuries?
A civil action for damages, whether filed against an Albany dog owner or someone else, has the potential to secure a range of compensation for the harm the victim suffered.
Every case differs, of course, but Finkelstein & Partners clients may have the right to receive payment for:
- The cost of medical care for a dog bite, including for all emergency care, hospitalization, testing, and medication necessary to treat the wound and to prevent rabies and other infection;
- Other expense flowing from a dog bite injury in Albany, such as the cost of therapy for a child victim emotionally traumatized by a dog attack;
- Any wages or income a victim or victim’s family loses, or cannot earn in the future because of the dog bite injury, such as the cost a parent incurs from taking time off work to care for a child recuperating from a dog attack;
- The dog bite victim’s pain and suffering, which also takes into account the diminished quality of life a victim may suffer, such as when a dog bite leaves a permanent, disfiguring scar; and
- Occasionally, punitive damages when dog attacks result from someone’s extreme, outrageous, or intentionally harmful actions.
As these categories reflect, the amount of damages Albany dog bite victims might receive for their injuries depends first on the severity of their injury. As a general matter, the greater the physical harm inflicted by a dog bite, and the more widespread the injury’s impact on the victim’s life, the higher the potential compensation the victim should receive.
At Finkelstein & Partners, however, we also know having a right to compensation is not the same as actually securing it. It often takes the skill and diligence of an experienced personal injury lawyer to prove a case for maximum damages and to locate sources of payment.
In many Albany dog bite injury cases, for instance, a dog owner may carry one or more insurance policies—homeowners or renters insurance, for example—that a victim can turn to for payment of damages. The owner may also have financial resources of his or her own that a victim can seize as payment. The Finkelstein & Partners team does not rest until we have explored all possible avenues for obtaining payment on our clients’ behalf.
What to Do if a Dog Bites You in Albany
If you or a loved one suffered a dog bite injury recently in Albany, then the steps you take in the moments and days afterward can affect your legal and financial rights.
Follow these tips to protect yourself.
- Seek immediate medical care. Do not wait to go to a doctor, especially if a dog bite breaks the skin. Seek immediate medical attention to treat the wound and to protect against the potential risks of infection. Dog bites can transmit rabies, a disease that, if left untreated, is nearly 100 percent fatal in humans.
- Obtain the dog’s vaccination information. New York law requires that all dogs be vaccinated against rabies, but that does not mean all dog owners comply. Even dogs that have received vaccinations can, in rare cases, carry and transmit the disease. Obtain the dog’s vaccination information immediately from the dog’s owner, and try to find out if the dog has had any exposure to wildlife that could carry the disease.
- Contact our experienced Albany dog bite lawyers. In Albany, you have clear rights to compensation from the owner of the dog that bit you. The sooner you act on those rights, the better your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve, so call us without delay.
Your Knowledgeable Albany Dog Bite Lawyers
At Finkelstein & Partners, we have more than six decades of collective experience representing victims of dog bites and other personal injuries. We know how to get you the compensation you deserve for your dog bite injuries.
Contact us online or call our Albany office at (518) 452-2813 for a free consultation to learn more about your rights after a dog bite harms you or a loved one.
1707 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12205