Under New York Bicycle Accident Law, Dog Owners Are Not Always Liable for Dog-on-Cyclist Attacks

Thumbnail image for bicyclists racing.jpgAt my favorite Bike Shop (the Geneva Bicycle Center), I recently learned of a dog-on-bicyclist attack near Geneva, New York. Apparently, the dog charged out at the cyclist and caused her to fall from her bike and fracture her pelvis. That’s a painful injury that will require lots of time to heal.

So here’s my bog topic of the day: Can the injured cyclist hold the dog owner liable for her injuries? The answer, unfortunately, is only “maybe”! The basic rule in New York where a dog charges out into the roadway and causes a cyclist to fall is that the dog owner is legally liable only if he or she knew or should have known that the dog had a tendency to chase after or obstruct traffic. Take a look at the case of Alia v. Fiorina and you will see how a dog owner can beat a cyclist’s case by testifying that the dog never chased down cars or bikes before.

So if you are the seriously injured victim of a dog-on-cyclist attack, how do you find out whether this was the first time the dog ever chased down a car or cyclist, or whether the dog had a history of doing so? Just ask the dog owner, right? Wrong!

If there’s one thing I have learned from suing dog owners is that they are like parents; they feel their cute little Fido can do no wrong. Typical dog owner responses to his or her dog biting someone, or charging out at a cyclist, go like this: “Butch would never bite anyone – he must have been provoked”. “Fido would never attack a cyclist — he was just being playful and the cyclist must have over-reacted”.

The way to find out the truth about the dog is to hire a skilled investigator to get statements from the neighbors, UPS driver, postal worker, and anyone else who frequents the house and the street or roadway where the dog lives. That’s what the New York bicycle accident lawyers at Michaels & Smolak do when they are investigating a dog that caused a Central New York bicycle accident.

If you can hold the dog owner liable, the owner’s homeowner’s insurance will most likely provide coverage for the injuries, including payment of medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. And if you are seriously injured, the extra money will come in handy.

If you are attacked by a dog while riding your bike, see a knowledgeable New York bicycle accident lawyer who knows how to properly investigate your claim.

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