California Dog Bite Checklist! What To Do If A Dog Bites You
Dogs usually are quite friendly; however, even the best-trained, mild-mannered dogs can attack or defend themselves without warning. Over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States. Over 800,000 of these attacks require hospitalization. Young children are the most common victims.
Recently, the family of a child dog-bite victim filed a lawsuit against Anna Paulina Luna, a Pinellas County, Florida congressional candidate. The father of the 9-year-old victim is alleging that Luna and her husband are co-owners of the dog who bit and lunged at his son. The child received 11 stitches for his injuries, and the lawsuit is seeking thousands in damages due to medical treatment, emotional anguish, and pain.
These cases are far more common than you would think. There is always a chance that you or a loved one could be a victim of a dog bite attack. If a dog ever attacks you, there are immediate steps you need to take to ensure your health and safety and stay legally protected.
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Essential Steps to Follow After a Dog Bite Attack
Here is a checklist you should follow if you ever suffer a dog bite attack to be ready for any legal proceedings:
Treat your bite and get to safety
If you have been bitten by a dog, you should get away from the danger as soon as possible and seek medical assistance. Clean any open wounds with mild soap and water. Evaluate your injuries and check for any broken bones. You should also apply pressure to an area that is bleeding excessively until you can get medical attention. Follow all directions from your physician, and be sure to attend any follow-up appointments.
Exchange contact information with the dog’s owner and any witnesses
You should get the name and contact information of the dog’s owner. If there are any witnesses, try to collect their names and contact information. Be sure also to ask the owner for proof of rabies vaccination. Unvaccinated and feral dogs are more likely to pass on rabies and other serious illnesses.
Take photos of the dog and any property damage
Try to take a picture or video of the dog who bit you. This will help you identify the dog, its breed and color. If you can, take several photos of where the incident took place. Also, check to see if the dog bite ripped through your clothing or shoes. It may be included as property damage.
Report the dog bite to a local animal control agency
Contact a local animal control agency and report the dog bite incident. Keep copies of the animal control report. If you can, try to get the dog’s vaccination records from their veterinarian so that you can determine who the owner is and that the dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
Take photos of the injury and recovery process
Take clear photos of your dog bite injuries and any torn or bloody clothing. Ideally, you should also take photos throughout the recovery process. Try to take as many photos as possible so that you can demonstrate how difficult and painful your recovery is. Avoid speaking with the dog owner or their insurance company regarding details of the attack or the extent of your injuries. Ideally, you should speak with a qualified personal injury attorney before accepting any settlement from an insurance company.
Who Is Held Liable in Dog Bite Cases?
Laws regarding liability in dog bite cases can vary from state to state. In California, the dog owner has strict liability for all damages to the victim according to California Law, Section 3342. The incident can occur in a private or public place, including the private property of the dog owner. The dog owner is held responsible even if the dog has never displayed violent behavior in the past.
In addition to civil liability, the owner may also have criminal liability if they own a dog that is considered dangerous or vicious. Dogs that are considered dangerous are involved in at least two separate violent incidents over a three-year period. These situations must result in the injury or death of either a person or a domestic pet. Dogs that are considered vicious are those that have been used in illegal street fights or that have severely injured or killed a person with aggressive force in the past.
Owning a dangerous or vicious dog that bites someone can earn the owner a misdemeanor or a felony. If the dog’s bite causes an injury, that could result in a misdemeanor charge, which becomes a felony in the event of the person’s death. If a dog has bitten someone on two separate occasions, then the district attorney will review the situation to determine if the owner has taken tangible actions to keep the dog away from others to prevent these incidents from occurring.
Common Dog Owner Defenses in Injury Liability
These are some of the most common defenses that owners may use to defend themselves against dog bite claims.
- Proof of Ownership: A dog owner may claim that simply because the dog is on their property, that does not mean that they are the owner. In these situations, it is presumed that whoever has control over the dog is the owner. Veterinarian records and animal control records are considered in determining who the owner is.
- The victim was trespassing: If the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property during the incident, they are not covered by state law.
- The victim was harassing the dog: The dog owner is not responsible for damages if the dog was harassed or provoked by the victim prior to the attack.
- The victim was not bitten by the dog: State laws in California cover dog bites only. These bites do not have to penetrate the skin completely. If a person sustains injuries from a dog scratching or jumping on them, they cannot pursue a personal injury claim. They can, however, file a negligence claim against the dog’s owner. They must prove that the injury was caused by negligence or the dog owner’s failure to use reasonable care.
Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney
The statute of limitations in California for personal injury claims is two years. It means you have two years from the date of the dog bite event to file a civil claim against the owner. Most dog bite cases can be settled without going to trial.
Note that there are some exceptions to the law. You cannot bring a claim against a government agency that uses a dog in police or military work. Additionally, if a dog attacks after being harassed or provoked by the victim, the dog’s owner is not held liable.
If you believe that you have a claim following a dog bite incident, you should contact a personal injury lawyer in your area as soon as you are able to. An experienced attorney can help you determine any negligence or liability in your case, advise you about your options, and help you maximize what you could receive in recovery.
If you have been bitten by a dog, you should document the event as much as possible. Once you are ready, your next step should be to consult with a personal injury attorney who can help determine your eligibility for a claim and how much you could receive in a settlement. Most dog bite cases are personal injury cases, and the amount you may receive in recovery varies depending on factors such as:
- Cost of your medical expenses;
- Lost wages and income;
- Property damage repairs;
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Emotional torment and suffering;
- Punitive damages; and
- Death benefits.
A dog bite attack can be a physically and emotionally difficult event. If you ever find yourself a victim of such an attack, working with a qualified lawyer will increase your odds of getting the compensation you deserve. Contact firms directly or use a local lawyer referral service to help you connect with reputable personal injury and dog bite lawyers in your area.