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Dog Bites and Personal Injury Claims

June 23, 2017 | Filed under: Dog Bite, personal injury

Imagine that you are strolling along a sidewalk on the street where you live, the cool summer air feels soothing on your sun-kissed face, there are people enjoying the day in their front yards. Suddenly you spot a dog in a yard in the distance and maybe you’re someone who loves pets so you approach it and then… CHOMP! You get a nice bite from Mr. Hooch. There are many people in California that have had this reality play out, so what do you do if this situation ever happens to you? Let’s take a look at the laws in California and let’s consider what happens when a dog bite occurs.

The Statistics

According to Wikipedia, there are between 4.5 -4.7 million Americans that are bitten by dogs every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 20 to 30 of these bites are fatal and usually involve children or elderly when a fatality is the case. 67% of deaths were linked to a certain breed, namely Pit bulls and Rottweilers. A CDC report on dog related fatalities spanning from 1979- 1998 revealed that out of 227 incidents, 133 (58%) were unrestrained dogs and on the owners’ property, 55 (24%) were loose off the owners’ property, 38 (17%) were restrained dogs on their owners’ property, and only one (less than 1%) was restrained off the owners’ property. This means you are more likely to be bit by a friend’s dog at their house than out in public.

California State Law and Strict Liability Statue

In California, along with many other states, there is a strict liability on dog bites, meaning that the owner is liable for any damages or injuries caused by their dog in a civil claim. If someone’s injury were caused by a dog bite and the injury happened in a public place or in a private place that they were expressly invited to, than the owner of the dog will be held liable according to California Civil Code section 3342. An exception to section 3342 is when the dog bite occurs while a dog is performing police or military duties. If someone is bit by a dog in these types of situations, an injured person usually cannot sue even if the dog bite is in a public or private place. Section 3342 only applies to dog bites specifically, so you cannot sue anyone just because their dog scratched you, or for jumping on you, or for getting dog hair all over. California Civil Code section 3342.5 applies to any situation where a dog has a past history of attacks stating, “The owner of any dog that has bitten a human being shall have the duty to take such reasonable steps as are necessary to remove any danger presented to other persons from bites by the animal”.

California’s strict liability statute makes it extremely difficult for some people to defend themselves and their pet because the statue states that, “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness” they are held liable for their pet. Basically an owner can’t argue that they had no idea their dog would be aggressive or violent. Injuries that are not bites are not covered by section 3342, therefore a person looking for compensation from injuries or damages must demonstrate that the owner’s negligence to use reasonable care and restraint resulted in an injury.

So suppose that your child is walking along the beach, and a stranger’s dog jumps on your child and scratched at their face causing an injury. You must be able to prove that the dog’s jumping was caused by the owner’s failure to reasonable restrain their dog (i.e. not keeping their dog on a leash or inside a fenced-off yard), and that the dog wasn’t provoked or harassed by your child with unwanted petting or any other annoyances.

Charges Dog Owners Face as a Result of a Dog Bite or Attack

In some cases, a dog owner may face criminal charges if their dog attacks or bites and injures someone. If criminal charges are filed against a dog’s owner, the injured person might file a civil lawsuit as well. California’s criminal laws on dog bites apply to what they deem as “dangerous or vicious” dogs. A “dangerous” dog is one that may act aggressively and would force someone to defend themselves while not on the pet owners property, or a dog that has a history of unprovoked biting that has caused injury, or has killed another domestic animal while away from the owner’s property. Now is term of a vicious dog, this would imply a dog that was owned by another person who has been charged and convicted of an offense such as illegal dog fights or has severely injured or killed a human being. A dangerous or vicious dog that is left to roam free would make the dog’s owner culpable to negligence by failing to restrain it, leading to being charged with a felony if the dog was able to kill someone. We sincerely hope that you never find yourself in this type of situation so always use caution when approaching unfamiliar dog’s and always ask about a dog’s temperament before petting someone’s animal.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite or attack, Car Accident Lawyer Guys strongly encourages you to call our personal injury attorneys at 1.877.672.2777 for a free consultation. Our highly skilled and experienced attorneys will provide you with the best legal representation and guidance that you need. Our offices are conveniently located throughout California and we conduct regular travels in the region to meet with clients.

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We know that you do not have any control over accidents or their devastating effects, so we are here to help. Every year, many people face tragic accidents that leave them badly injured. They have to try to go through legal proceedings alone and without any support. When you are involved in an accident, it is vital that you get help from an experienced personal injury lawyer. You deserve fair compensation for your injury, so hire a knowledgeable accident lawyer to help, support and guide you.

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