Your neighbor tells you that their dog likes “everybody,” but that hasn’t been your experience. You’ve seen the dog snap and snarl through the gate when you pass by, and you’ve tried to be wary – but the dog got loose, and you got bitten.
Can you hold the dog owner responsible? Here’s what you need to know.
New Mexico doesn’t have a specific dog bite law
The majority of states have specific statutes that say when a dog’s owner can be held liable for a bite – and when they cannot. New Mexico does not. Instead, the courts rely on regular legal principles and case law.
That means that you can generally hold an owner liable for a dog bite when:
- The owner was somehow negligent. This means that they failed in their duty to restrain or control the animal. If, for example, the dog that bit you jumped the fence and had done so before, then it’s only reasonable that the owner should have taken more steps to keep the animal confined.
- The dog’s owner was aware the dog was prone to biting. There’s no clear line that says exactly what that means, but owners are considered strictly liable for any bites by a dog that’s known to be “vicious.” Certainly, if the dog had bitten someone else in an unprovoked attack, that would serve as notice that the dog was vicious. However, merely barking at strangers outside the gate may not be enough to do it.
Because dog bite cases in New Mexico are not always straightforward claims, the wisest course of action is to find out more about your rights and legal options – before you talk to the neighbor.