Dog Bite FAQ

What Is The Difference Between Strict Liability And Negligence In My Dog Bite Injury?

Most states operate under either strict liability or negligence where dog bites are concerned. California is a strict liability state, meaning the owner of a dog is unable to escape liability for a dog bite, simply by claiming he or she was unaware the dog might possibly act in an aggressive manner. In other words, even if the dog has never bitten another human being, the owner of the dog is still liable. The owner of a dog who bites a person cannot claim that he or she took reasonable care to prevent the dog from biting another person as a defense.

Is There Criminal Liability For A California Dog Bite Injury?

When a dog in the state of California is considered “dangerous” or “vicious,” the owner can be criminally, as well as civilly, liable. A dangerous dog is one which:

  • Has acted in an aggressive manner while off the owner’s property, at least two times within a three-year period, forcing a person to defend himself or herself
  • Has, while away from the owner’s property, bitten, killed or injured another domestic animal at least two times, within a three-year period
  • Has, while unprovoked, bitten another person, resulting in a non severe injury to that person

A vicious dog is a dog that:

  • Has inflicted severe injury on a human being in an aggressive manner
  • Has been determined to be a dangerous dog, yet whose owner ignored the necessary precautions for keeping a dangerous dog
  • Is owned by a person convicted of any offense that is related to illegal dog-fighting

Owners of dangerous or vicious dogs who do not exercise reasonable care to ensure the animal is restrained, or who allow the dog to roam freely, could be charged with a felony if the same dog attacks and kills a human being. If the dog causes serious injury, the owner could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Injuries Following An Attack By A Dog?

Dog bites can be extremely painful and can lead to infections, leading to further problems. Dogs can also fracture a bone during a dog bite as the dog’s jaw closes on that bone, particularly in a small child. Therefore, a dog bite can result in puncture wounds from the dog’s teeth, as well as a broken bone. A broken bone can take weeks of immobilization in a splint or cast to fully heal. The bacteria in a dog’s mouth can contaminate the wound, resulting in an infection.

Those with any type of preexisting condition that could impair immunity (diabetes or HIV, to name two) must be particularly careful following a dog bite.

An open wound from the dog bite will need to be checked frequently for any signs of infection, and antibiotics are likely to be prescribed. Most dogs bite on the head, neck and face; on the arms as the victim attempts self-protection; and on the lower legs for smaller dogs. Facial lacerations and facial fractures can require extensive levels of reconstructive surgery.

The face is one of the most vulnerable areas and can be left disfigured, with scars, following a dog attack. Deep wounds may require many stitches, as well as the services of a highly skilled plastic surgeon.

Those who are bitten on the face may require dermabrasion, surgical excision of a scar, pressure scar modification, and may need to use special, heavy makeup to cover up the scars left from the dog bite. Unfortunately, some insurance companies may consider reconstructive or plastic surgery a cosmetic issue, refusing to pay for the procedures. Children in particular, as well as some adults, may experience post-traumatic stress disorder following a severe dog attack and may be anxious and depressed. Children with facial scars from a dog bite could experience teasing from classmates. As you can see, the injuries from dog bites and their aftermath can be extremely severe and can last many years, or even for the remainder of the person’s life.

What Type Of Compensation Is Available To Dog Bite Victims?

Most people are entitled to receive compensation for all their medical expenses. These expenses can include hospital charges, physician expenses, prescription drug medication expenses, rehabilitation expenses, and, in some cases, even gas money to drive to and from your doctor’s appointments. If you are required to drive a considerable distance to receive medical treatment, you may also be entitled to recover any expenses for motels and meals.

Under compensatory damages, you may also be entitled to lost wages. If you were off work for a few weeks following your dog attack, you will probably receive what you would have made during that time if you had been at work as usual. If your injuries are so severe that you may never be able to work again, you may be entitled to lost future wages as well. You could also be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured as a direct result of your dog bites. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in cases where the negligence of the owner was both willful and malicious. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant, as well as to deter the same type of behavior in others.

California Statute Of Limitations For Dog Bite Injuries

In the case of a dog bite, there is a two-year statute of limitations, meaning you have two years from the date of the dog attack, in which to file a personal injury claim. If you wait longer than two years to file a claim, the court will not hear your case and you will be left with no compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, etc.

Should I Hire A Lawyer After My Dog Bite Injuries?

Working with an experienced personal injury attorney can improve your likelihood of getting the compensation you need to recover from your dog bite injuries. Call the Law Offices of John Rapillo for more information today.