Articles Posted in Dog Bite Injuries

As my readers know, I am a Central New York personal injury lawyer who loves to cycle and run along the beautiful roadways around Geneva, New York, where I live, and Auburn, New York, where I work. I like to call myself the “Finger Lakes bicycle accident lawyer”, but that’s somewhat of an exaggeration, since I handle a lot of other kinds of accident cases as well. Fortunately, there are not enough bike accidents in the Finger Lakes for a lawyer to make a living just representing injured cyclists.

The Finger Lakes provide a stunningly gorgeous background to my workouts. But nothing is perfect. Those same run and bike routes are strewn with some very nasty, aggressive dogs. It seems that some folks who live far out in the country don’t mind if their pets make mincemeat of bicyclists and runners.

My last post was about dog-on-bicyclist confrontations, and how bikers should deal with them. I said there was no consensus among cyclists about how to handle vicious dogs that run out at you on your bike, and asked other riders to give me their views.

Anyone who has bicycled on Central New York’s beautiful country roads, as I have, knows about the dangerous dogs lurking out there in the most pristine areas. And many of us have ended up in a ditch, or on the pavement, bloodied or with puncture wounds, because of it. Some of us have even been seriously injured and I (in my capacity as Central New York dog attack lawyer!) have been honored to represent them against the dog owner. Unfortunately, run-ins with dogs are part of cycling in the Central New York countryside.

As a Central New York personal injury lawyer and cyclist who has handled New York dog-on-bike cases, I have come to the conclusion that there are three main dangers in every dog-on-cyclist encounter: (1) the dog can bite you; (2) the dog can get caught up in your spokes and cause you to fall; and (3) the dog can divert your attention away from careful riding, and thus cause you to get hit by a car or fall from your bike. This last danger is the most serious one, but the one most cyclists overlook.

There is no universal agreement among cyclists about how to deal with a belligerent dog hovering close to foot or wheel. Here are the main categories of advice riders will give you: (1) ignore the pooch and keep riding as fast as you can; (2) spray the killer with your water bottle (the shock of the cold water will stop him dead in his tracks); (3) carry a can of “mace for dogs” with you and really teach the dog a lesson; (4) unclip the closest foot and kick him hard; (5) grab your bike pump and swing it at him, at least threateningly, if not to kill (5) if he is really close and might get caught up in your bike, slow down and, if necessary, get off your bike, put the bike between you and the dog to protect yourself, and then slowly talk your way out of the situation.

My last Central New York injury law blog was about New York dog law and how it has no “teeth”. It doesn’t protect innocent bicyclists, pedestrians and runners from dog bites and dog attacks because it does not make dog owners pay for injuries their dogs inflict when they violated leash laws. I explained how in New York, unlike in other states, a dog owner is not liable for the injuries his dog causes to pedestrians, bikers, runners and others merely because he violated a leash law and allowed his dog to roam unrestrained. In New York this is not enough. You have to show that the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious tendencies, or of its tendency to run out after pedestrians, runners or bicyclists. This is sometimes hard to prove, because the dog owner will invariably deny that his dog ever did this before.

But, as usual after I publish a blog, I had a “I should-have-said” moment. In this case, I should have added an anecdote about a case I had a few years ago where the dog owner’s insurance adjuster (with whom I was negotiating behalf of my client) did not know this rule. He, like many people, assumed that a dog owner would be liable for injuries caused by a dog when the dog owner disobeyed a leash law, thus allowing the dog the opportunity to attack a bicyclist, runner or pedestrian.

I settled the case with him and got my client a fair settlement, even though I knew I was able to do so only because the adjuster was ignorant about the law. Did I feel bad about that? Absolutely not; my client deserved the compensation, I did not deceive the insurance company about the law, rather, its adjuster was just too lazy to look it up, and the law in New York is so unjust that this “error” on the part of the insurance adjuster actually worked a justice.

I hate dogs. At least when I am on a bike or out running. I have a dog (“Pisca”), but she is not like those dogs. She does not run out after bicyclists and runners. I keep her inside unless I am walking her, and then she is leashed.

Maybe my view of the world is skewed because I handle a lot Syracuse and Central New York bicycle accident cases, where I see close up how lives, damn good ones, are destroyed by unrestrained dogs.

But I am not the only one who thinks dogs should be restrained. After all, many New York State local lawmakers agree with me. They pass “leash laws”. Many dog owners apparently don’t agree with me and the lawmakers, though, because they let their dogs roam free, leash laws be damned!

The Syracuse Post Standard reported today that an Auburn, New York police officer suffered muscle wounds and injuries requiring stitches after a pit bull attacked him Sunday night. The officer had walked up a driveway on East Genesee Street to investigate some smoke coming from the back (it turned out to be a pit fire), when a large pit bull charged at him from the porch with such fury that it broke free of its tether. The dog sunk its teeth into the officer’s right arm and right upper leg before the dog’s “dog sitter” pulled the dog free of him.

After years of handling Central New York dog bite cases, I read newspaper articles like this somewhat differently than most people. I “analyze” the case from a “liability” perspective as I read. It’s a professional hazard!

But now that I am on the topic, let’s talk about the liability issues in this case. Is the dog owner, who was not home, liable to the officer? What about the dog “sitter”? Is anyone liable? After all, the dog broke free of its chain, so the owner, or the sitter, had at least taken the precaution of tying the dog up. Does it matter whether they had tried to be careful in securing the dog?

Would you keep an appliance in your home if you knew these facts about it:

(1) It injures about 800,000 people a year in the USA – with one out of every 6 injuries being serious enough to require medical attention.

(2) 75% of the injuries are to the victim’s face.

We just learned of a a Seneca County dog bite case, and as usual, the victim was a child. At Michaels Bersani Kalabanka we take in several dog bite cases a year. While the injuries from dog bites are not usually life threatening, the scarring is often disfiguring and permanent. Especially with children, the bites tend to be in the face.

In this case, the child was only 3 years old, and was visiting an apartment with his parents. The dog looked friendly, so the parents let their guard down, and let their child get close. The dog lunged and bit the child in the face, causing a terrible gash in his nose, requiring 15 stitches. We are hoping for a good recovery. In a way he was lucky; the bite just missed the eye.

I am a runner and bicyclist, and have had my own run-ins with dogs. I have been bitten by dogs twice while running, and a dog caused me to fall off my bicycle once, too. Dog owners are supposed to keep their dogs on their property, but they don’t always do so, especially out in the countryside where I run and bike.

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