As the weather warms up and more people walk and play outside, it is important to be aware of nearby dogs who pose a biting threat. Although most dogs are very friendly and safe to be around, this is not necessarily true of all dogs or breeds. In fact, if provoked, some dogs may respond by biting humans. Every day, an estimated 1,000 Americans must seek medical treatment for injuries related to dog bites.
There are certainly some breeds, such as Rottweilers and pit bulls, which are more prone to biting than other breeds. However, in many cases, it depends on the personality of the individual dog. The vast majority of dogs who bite are male, and of those, most are not neutered. And even if these dogs are chained or restrained, they may still bite if they are approached too closely.
If you or a loved one is bitten by a dog in California, you may have legal recourse against the owner of the dog. However, it is important that you understand the state laws governing dog bite liability before pursuing a claim. Our attorneys are also available to further discuss your dog bite claim with you.
California Strict Liability
In California, a dog owner may be held strictly liable for injuries caused if his or her dog bites someone. Strict liability simply means that the injured person does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent in some way. Even if the dog was properly chained or restrained, the dog owner can still be held liable for any dog bite injuries. The owner may also be liable even if the dog has never shown any propensity towards biting or aggressive behavior.
What you must show to prove your claim is that (1) the defendant owned the dog at the time of the injury; (2) the bite took place either on public property or on private property that you were permitted to access; (3) you were in fact bitten by the dog; and (4) the bite caused some kind of injury.
Be Aware of Possible Defenses
However, it is important to be aware that dog owners do have defenses available if you do bring suit against them. If they can prove that they do not legally own the dog, but rather are only keeping it, they may have a defense. Compared to an owner, a keeper of a dog must have knowledge that the dog has a propensity to bite. In other words, strict liability does not apply to keepers.
Furthermore, if you were trespassing onto private property, even inadvertently, when you were bitten, you may not be able to sue the owner for your injuries. If the dog owner can prove you were not on his property legally, then he will not be held strictly liable for your injuries. You also cannot have provoked the dog in any way in order to recover for your injuries.
Lastly, a bite must have actually occurred. It is not enough if the injuries were caused by the dog jumping on you, scratching you or knocking you down for purposes of strict liability. However there may be other theories of liability that apply, such as negligence.
What To Do If You Have Been Bitten
If you have been the victim of a dog bite injury, your first priority should certainly be to seek medical attention. If possible, have a witness take a photograph of the dog and where the dog was when the bite occurred. This will help identify the dog and determine whether it belongs to someone or is a stray. You should also take photographs of the injury and keep track of records and bills for the medical treatment you underwent to treat the bite and any resulting injuries.
Next you need to contact the police and your local health department to notify them and ensure that there have not been any cases of rabies in your area. You should also track down the owner of the dog and obtain their information.
Finally, you should reach out to an experienced dog bite attorney who can assist you with your case. Your lawyer can work with you to obtain the necessary information for your claim and determine what your claim is worth, based on your medical bills and your pain and suffering.