You would think a dog owner is always strictly liable for their dog no matter where you are in the United States, but that is not the case. Each state has its own way of determining liability when it comes to dog bites. The two broad categories are strict liability and the one-bite rule.
While New Mexico does not have a dog bite statute, it follows a variation of the one-bite rule. It does not mean a dog owner is automatically responsible for a dog bite if their dog has already bitten someone before.
When is a dog owner responsible for a dog bite in New Mexico?
Knowledge plays a crucial role in establishing liability for a dog bite in New Mexico. Dog owners are responsible for the damages caused by their dogs under the following circumstances:
- They knew or should have known their dog was vicious
- They knew or should have known their dog has a vicious or aggressive tendency
- They knew or should have known their dog has a natural inclination to be vicious
If the dog owner did not know or had no reason to believe that their dog had a predisposition toward violence or aggression, then they may not be liable. However, dog owners should know their dogs more than anyone. They should be able to tell when it is showing signs of hostility.
What if the dog owner had no idea their dog would bite?
A dog owner should still ensure their dog does not hurt anyone by exercising reasonable care when it is around strangers or other animals. They should control their dog in situations where the dog might be a potential threat and cause another to sustain injuries. Otherwise, a victim could hold them accountable for their negligence even though they had no knowledge of the dog’s dangerous tendencies.