Dogs are referred to as “man’s best friend.” We love and trust dogs, even when we probably should not. Unfortunately, dog bites and attacks happen all the time, especially to young children. This page contains a detailed summary of California’s law regarding dog bites. The below information is not a substitute for speaking with a dog bite attorney like Sean Reis, but it will help you understand the basics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in America. Almost 1 out of 5 bites becomes infected and causes serious injury. According to PubMed, most dog bite victims are children. Children between 5 and 9 years old are the most likely to be injured by a dog.
How to Prevent a Dog Bite
The CDC has offered some basic tips to help lessen the likelihood of dogs biting. They are as follows:
- Do not move when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- Curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands covering your ears and neck if a dog knocks you over.
- Tell your children to inform an adult if they see stray dogs or dogs that are acting strangely
- Do not approach unfamiliar animals.
- Do not run from the dog as they may view you as prey and give chase.
- Do not panic or make loud noises.
- Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for their puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to smell and see you first.
- Do not encourage your dog to play aggressively.
- Do not let small children play with dogs without an adult present.
I Was Bitten by a Dog, What Should I Do?
As with many accidents, the first thing you should after being bitten by a dog is to seek medical attention. If the bite is not too deep, you should wash it out with soap and water and then seek medical attention when you are able as your physician will be better able to assess the damage. Furthermore, dog bites can spread diseases such as rabies, tetanus, MRSA, and other infections.
Once you have assessed your medical needs, see if you can identify who the dog belongs to. This does NOT mean approach or follow the dog, but if you recognize the dog as belonging to one of your neighbors, or if someone comes out to get the dog, get their information as your dog bite attorney will want it. After this, call our San Diego personal injury lawyer. This is incredibly important.
Liability for Dog Bites in California
The state of California handles dog bites as a “strict liability” matter. California Civil Code § 3342 (a) (“Cal. Civ. Code”) says that the owner of a dog who bites someone in a public place, or someone in a private place to which they have been invited, is liable for the damage regardless of whether the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s tendency to bite.
The only exceptions to this are military or police dogs in the line of duty. Furthermore, if a dog has bitten a human before, the owner has to take reasonable steps to ensure that the dog will not bite another human. (Cal. Civ. Code 3342.5). San Diego is full of dogs on and off leash. It is the owner’s responsibility to keep others safe from their dog.
What Do I Have to Prove to Win My Case?
Here are the basics. This is only a broad overview and you should speak with your dog bite attorney in detail about this. But he will likely tell you that you case must show:
- Who owned the dog;
- That the dog bit the victim while in a public place or while the victim was on private property legally;
- That the victim was harmed; and
- That the dog was the main reason for that harm.
These elements person was lawfully on private property of the owner if he was performing any duty required by law or was on the property at the invitation, express or implied, of the owner. So a mail carrier, gardner, construction worker, remodeler, plumber, pool maintenance man, or any other worker would likely fit this element.
How Long Do I Have to File the Claim?
Like a majority of personal injury claims the statute of limitations, or the time limit you have to file the case, is two years. For this reason, it is vitally important for you to contact a dog bite attorney and soon as possible.
What Can a Dog Bite Attorney Do for You?
Dog Bite Lawyer San Diego – You have just spent the past five to ten minutes reading a large amount of legalese and confusing jargon. Your dog bite attorney is familiar with everything listed above and will be able to help you navigate the concepts of strict liability, potential defenses raised by the opposing party, and counters you have these defenses. Our office provides hope for seriously injured people.
Additionally, dog bites cause emotional trauma along with any puncture wounds or contusions. Your dog bite lawyer will be well-versed in all areas of compensation available to you in your case, and should be called as soon as possible.
A Partial Exception to Strict Liability
The state of California follows a model of liability known as “comparative negligence.” (Cal. Civ. Code 1714) Simply put, if you do something that helps to bring the injury upon yourself, the amount of compensation you may recover from the other party will be reduced.
What does this mean for dog bites? If you provoke the dog by hitting it or harassing it in any manner, the jury will decide what percentage of the blame falls on you and reduce your total recovery by that amount. Is it a 50/50 split between you and the dog? Are your total damages $20,000? You can expect to see $10,000.
My four-year-old hit a dog with a stick, but he’s just four!
If the previous two sections have not convinced you that you need a dog bite attorney, we will make it even more complicated for you. In Christian v. Goodwin, 188 Cal.App.2d 650, it was stated that a child under the age of five was “incapable of contributory negligence.” This means that California understand that children under the age of five are not able to understand the consequences of their actions, and, thus, a four-year-old hitting a dog with a stick is not yet capable of foreseeing the dog becoming angered and biting him/her. So, if your child is under the age of five and provokes the attack, full compensation is still available, but be sure to hire a dog bite attorney as this is a simplification of everything.