New Jersey one of the highest in nation for dog bite claims

Dog bites injure more than a million people each year, and some people are killed. Pet owners may be liable for damages after a dog attack.

Most dog owners in New Jersey and across the country experience little or no issues with their beloved pets. Unfortunately, many other dogs may bite or attack. Sadly, headlines show up nationally on an almost regular basis that report on a tragic incident in which a dog took the life of a person, often a young child.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs bite more than 4.5 million people every year. Injuries to children are the most common result, with half or more of dog bite victims being children.

Common dangers related to dog bites

Nearly one out of every five dog bites requires medical treatment, and most people are bitten during an everyday activity with a dog they know, such as playing with the dog or feeding it. After children, older adults are among those most commonly injured by dog bites.

Last year, State Farm Insurance reported that New Jersey was the 10th highest state for dog bite claims. The previous year, New Jersey had been 15th. How can people approach or interact with dogs that might reduce their risks of being bitten? Parents should teach their children the following safety points:

• Never go up to a dog they don't know or pet a dog without asking the owner's permission.

• If approached by an unfamiliar dog, they should not run or yell, but stand still and calm while looking at the ground. If the dog appears disinterested, they may back away slowly.

• If the dog attacks, use a backpack or jacket to "feed" to the dog. If it becomes necessary, curl up on the ground and use the arms to protect the neck and face.

• Never disturb a dog while it is caring for puppies, eating or sleeping.

• Don't play aggressively with a dog.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend that parents teach children to let a dog see them and sniff their hands before petting them, and that younger children should never be around a dog without adult supervision.

Woman and dog saved on Christmas Eve from pit bull attack

A recent incident highlighted the unexpected nature and severity of canine attacks. According to NJ.com, on Christmas Eve, the Newark Deputy Police Director encountered two pit bulls that had escaped from a yard and were attacking a smaller dog. The dog's owner was injured trying to protect her pet, but the officer chased the other dogs away. The shih-tzu mix received serious injuries, but was expected to survive.

If you, a child or another pet is injured by someone else's dog, the dog's owner may be liable for your damages and medical expenses. You will need to speak with a personal injury lawyer who has experience with animal attacks. An attorney should understand New Jersey's dog bite laws and be able to advise you of the steps you need to take during your case.