DOG BITES & ATTACKS
According to the Center for Disease Control there are more than 75 million dogs in the United States. Inevitably, man’s best friend becomes many people’s worst nightmare in many unfortunate occurrences across the country. Every year over five million people are bitten by a dog. Children make up more than 70% of dog bite victims and often suffer more severe injuries from these attacks. The costs associated with dog attacks are estimated at over one billion dollars annually.
Being the victim of a dog bite can be an incredibly painful and traumatic event. As grave as the physical damage can often be, the psychological toll can affect dog bite victims long after the physical wounds heal. If you have been the victim of a dog attack and want to seek monetary compensation for your injuries there are various steps you should take give yourself your best chance to recover for your damages. You should immediately:
- Seek medical attention for your injuries and follow your doctor’s advice
- Report the incident to your local authorities and animal control
- Identify the dog that bit you and its owner
- Take photographs of all the visible dog bite injuries, your clothes, the dog, and the location of the attack if possible
- Contact an experienced and reputable personal injury attorney to represent you and protect your interests
The personal injury attorneys at Custodio & Dubey are standing by to help you. With over a decade of experience in these matters they have a long track record of giving their clients high quality, effective, and dedicated legal representation. Your lawyer will work with you to:
- Determine all possible legal theories, arguments, applicable laws, and parties relevant to your case
- Identify and locate possible witnesses and retrieve any other forms of evidence
- Report the incident to animal control authorities
- Obtain a dog bite incident report
- Obtain relevant medical records
- Handle all communications with the insurance companies and establish a claim
Under a traditional negligence theory a plaintiff must establish that the owner of a dog knew of his dog’s propensity to attack for the owner to be held liable. This in practice gives the dog one free bite before the owner can be held responsible. However California has enacted a statute which holds a dog owner liable for a dog bite attack even if the dog has never bitten anyone before. This is called strict liability. This statute in essence eliminates the “one-free bite” rule because liability is based upon ownership not on whether the dog had a history of viciousness or whether the dog owner had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities. Under this California law the victim of a dog bite attack only needs to show that:
- The victim was injured by an actual bite during the dog attack
- The dog caused the injuries at issue
- The dog is owned by the defendant
- The dog bite took place while the victim was lawfully on private property or on public property
The California dog bite statute has eased the burden of proof for dog bite victims but it is very restrictive and in many cases of dog bites and attacks it may not be applicable. First the statute requires that there be an actual dog bite. Various dog attacks can be injurious without an actual bite. A dog can claw you, jump on you, or chase you and cause severe bodily and psychological harm- but these attacks do not trigger liability under the California statute.
The statute also shields dog owners from liability for dog bites on trespassers. However not all trespassers are criminals. Trespassing, being in a particular place without having the lawful authority or permission to be there, can be as innocent as a child going over into a neighbor’s yard to retrieve her ball, missing a “do not enter” sign, or unwittingly entering another’s property. Many dog attacks involving children occur when the child is legally a trespasser- in all these occasions the owner would be shielded from liability for the injuries caused by their dogs under the statute.
Another situation where the California statute is not useful is when a victim wants to hold responsible a party or individual that is not the owner. The strict liability statute only refers to owner liability. In many instances the dog owner may not be the only party at fault for the dog attack. The attack may have occurred while the dog was on a third party’s property, or under the care and control of a handler that is not the owner. To pursue a claim against caretakers and other potentially liable third parties the California statute will not apply.
In situations where the California dog bite statute is not applicable your lawyer can still successfully pursue your case by:
1) Using the traditional negligence standard,
2) Establishing a claim for negligent handling of the dog,
3) Pursuing a claim under premises liability
4) Identifying municipal and local codes that were violated such as dangerous breed bans and dog leash requirements to invoke negligence per se.
An experienced attorney will be able to recognize and handle the complexities of dog attack laws and form the proper strategy for your case.
Contact the law firm of Custodio & Dubey for a free, no obligation consultation to evaluate your case and protect your rights. Call them as soon as possible toll free at (213) 785-2909. You can also fill out our online consultation form and an attorney will contact you as soon as possible.