What happens if your dog bites someone? Walking down the street without encountering at least two dogs (or even a cat on a leash) seems impossible nowadays. As a responsible dog owner, it’s crucial to understand your liability if your furry friend happens to bite someone. This knowledge empowers you to take the necessary safety precautions to protect your beloved pup.
Being aware of your options as a civilian in the event of a bite attack is essential for both your safety and the pursuit of rightful compensation. If you have recently experienced a dog bite, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of accomplished dog bite lawyers at (213) 596-0265 for the assistance you need.
Dog Bite Levels: Dog Attack Injury Scale
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers uses a system created by Dr. Ian Dunbar to determine the severity of a dog bite. A bite from a dog is:
- Level 1: If the dog behaves “obnoxiously” or “aggressively” towards another person or animal without making skin contact with its teeth.
- Level 2: The dog makes contact with the skin using its teeth, causing nicks, and slight bleeding, but no punctures.
- Level 3: The bite results in one to four punctures, shallower than the half length of the canine teeth. Lacerations can also occur due to the dog’s or owner’s movements.
- Level 4: The bite causes one to four punctures, with at least one puncture deeper than the half length of the canine teeth. Deep bruising may also occur.
- Level 5: The dog attacks multiple victims, inflicting two or more bites of level four severity, or multiple attacks with at least one bite of level four.
- Level 6: The attack leaves a victim dead.
The APDT states that level one and level two attacks account for “well over 99 percent of all dog bite incidents.” According to the group, dogs exhibiting behavior similar to levels one, two, or three attacks can often resolve their behavioral issues relatively quickly through training. However, dogs involved in level four, six, or seven attacks can be challenging to train due to their “insufficient biting inhibition.”
The APDT recommends the euthanasia of dogs who carry out level 6 attacks.
Are Dog Owners Liable for Bites in California?
California is a strict liability state for dog bites, which means that defendants in dog bite cases (typically the dog owner) are usually automatically held liable for the damages caused. According to California Civil Code §§ 3342, dog owners are responsible for the majority of bite incidents, except when the victim was unlawfully on their property. In such cases, the dog owner may argue that the victim was trespassing.
Bite victims must present evidence to prove the circumstances surrounding their attack for the owner of the dog or cat in question to be held liable. Victims must demonstrate that despite having someone walk their pet for them, or having it house-sat or walk itself on occasion, the owner remains accountable.
If bitten by a dog and its owner drives off without you being present, attempt to obtain their license plate number as quickly as possible. If left behind but contained safely, check for identification information such as an address, phone number, or microchip on their fur.
Failing to provide contact details and medical history within 48 hours may result in legal penalties being levied against their pet owner.
A Dog Bit Me – What Should I Do?
You should make an effort to obtain the owner’s contact details promptly, along with identifying the breed of the dog involved.
In case the owner is uninsured, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit either against their homeowner’s insurer or directly against the owner.
It’s important to note that liability doesn’t necessarily require the dog to have bitten you. There have been cases where owners were held responsible for causing someone to fall even if the dog only closed its jaws around clothing or limbs without breaking the skin.
If possible, immediately contact the police following an attack. Their presence can help assess the situation, validate the incident, and alleviate the burden of proof for the injured party.
If a dog bites your skin, it is advisable to take the following precautions:
Wash the wound thoroughly with mild soap in warm water. Keep it there for 5-10 minutes. Apply antibiotic cream on the wound after washing. Wrap the wound with a sterile dressing.
Show the bite to a doctor. Your doctor will be able to determine if you need additional measures to heal the wound, such as a tetanus shot or stitches.
Follow any instructions given by your doctor and change the bandage as often as necessary to promote healing.
Watch for signs of infection if:
- The area surrounding the wound becomes particularly tender, numb, or swollen.
- You notice a significant weakness in the muscles or tremors of the muscle nearest the bite;
- If you notice that pus or fluids are oozing out of the wound,
- The difficulty in breathing increases.
- Feeling fatigued or experiencing night sweats?
- If you experience pain or stiffness in the muscles of your jaw, neck, or abdomen, it could be a sign that your body is aging.
Most dog bites don’t result in infection, but those that do must be addressed quickly for the victim’s safety.
Pasteurella accounts for roughly half of all dog bite infections, making it the primary pathogen. Rarely, other bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Corynebacterium, or anaerobes may also infiltrate victim bodies from dog bites.
Medical professionals typically treat infected bites by irrigating them with saline solution or povidone-iodine and administering prophylactic antibiotics and tetanus toxoids as needed. Debridement surgery may also be performed to preserve surrounding tissue.
Not all dogs belong to someone. If a dog attacks you, it’s essential that it can be determined if he was a stray and had managed to escape from a government shelter.
If a dog bites you while you are on someone else’s property, it is unlikely that a case against its owner can succeed.
California law dictates that to legally adopt a stray domestic animal, one must go through an animal control organization or rescue group which has provided temporary housing for the said animal during its holding period. Assuming ownership also facilitates liability determination in dog bite cases.
What if the Owner Flees the Scene?
Fleeing the scene of a dog bite attack is punishable by a fine of up to $100, according to California Penal Code Section §§ 398(a).
“If a person owning or having custody or control of an animal knows, or has reason to know, that the animal bit another person, he or she shall, as soon as is practicable, but no later than 48 hours thereafter, provide the other person with his or her name, address, telephone number, and the name and license tag number of the animal who bit the other person.
If the person with custody or control of the animal at the time the bite occurs is a minor, he or she shall instead provide identification or contact information of an adult owner or responsible party. And if the animal is required by law to be vaccinated against rabies, the person owning or having custody or control of the animal shall, within 48 hours of the bite, provide the other person with information regarding the status of the animal’s vaccinations. Violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).”
Are Police or Military Liable for Dog Bite Attacks?
Laws regarding dog bites typically do not apply to police and military dogs. However, in certain instances, an officer who controls one could be held liable if one occurs.
The Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees individuals’ right to freedom from unlawful seizures. Individuals have often relied upon this clause when alleging police dogs used excessive force during search-and-seizure searches and seizures, potentially holding them liable for any subsequent dog bite injuries caused by these searches and seizures.
Chew v. Gates involves Thane Chew hiding between two garbage cans after fleeing from police during a traffic stop. After they found Chew, they employed a German Shepherd dog to apprehend him – however, during its attempt, the German Shepherd bit Chew’s arm, causing severe injuries.
Chew filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, Police Chief Daryl Gates, and other officers alleging violations of both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. An initial ruling granted summary judgments to all but Officer Daniel Bunch who was found guilty of assault for losing control of her dog during seizure – this resulted in Chew receiving a $13,000 general verdict against Officer Bunch.
On appeal, the United States District Court for California Central determined that the District Court had made an error in upholding the police department’s canine use policy as constitutional; however, they also held that officers involved should receive qualified immunity since they could not reasonably be expected to determine its constitutionality themselves.
Since that time, this case has been used as a precedent in numerous dog bite lawsuits against police agencies where individuals claim that canine seizures violated their Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment rights.
What Should I Do if My Dog Bites Someone in California?
Within 48 hours after a dog bites someone else, you are required to provide your contact details and the medical history of your dog.
It should also include any medical conditions your dog may have, as well as their vaccination history.
What Happens to My Dog if They Bite Someone in CA?
California law mandates that when a dog bites someone, their owner is legally obliged to quarantine the animal for at least 10 days in either their own home or at a county animal center.
Actions taken regarding a dog bit will depend on its circumstances. Most dog bite cases require training to address and reduce aggression from their dog, however, euthanasia could be considered necessary as a measure if they have a longstanding history of aggressive behavior that poses risks to public safety.
When Can Someone Legally Kill a Dog?
Californians are legally empowered to euthanize any animal deemed “known to be dangerous to life, limb, or property.” Under the California Penal Code §§ 599c, residents can legally kill any such animals. When killing an animal owned by another, proof must be presented showing why its destruction was necessary.
Government officials such as animal control officers possess legal authority to impound or euthanize animals that pose threats to public safety, but must abide by certain legal procedures when doing so; pet owners typically have an opportunity to contest such decisions.
My Dog Was Attacked by Another Dog – What Can I Do?
California’s strict liability law for dog bites applies to the owner of a dog that bites another dog.
You should ask the owner for the dog’s history and the information about the dog that bit you. You might be able to file a claim against their homeowner’s or dog bite insurance.
What Compensation Can I Receive From a Dog Bite Case?
According to a joint report by the American Veterinary Medical Association and State Farm, the average settlement for a dog bite in California is $51,000.
If the owner lacks insurance coverage, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against them.
Most dog bite cases in California are relatively straightforward due to the strict liability laws. The dog owner or their insurance company will typically provide compensation to cover medical expenses and other related costs.
If you sustain a dog bite to your leg, you may be eligible for compensation.
- Medical expenses: You can seek compensation for medical costs and hospital bills related to your recovery from the dog bite.
- Pain and suffering: Victims of dog attacks often experience psychological trauma, and you may be entitled to additional compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured as a result of your dog bite injury.
- Lost wages: If your dog bite injury has rendered you unable to work or has caused difficulty in your ability to work, you may be eligible for damages to cover lost wages.
- Disability benefits: In cases where a dog bite has resulted in disability, disability benefits may be available to assist you in coping with the consequences of the injury.
If You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog — Tenina Law Can Help
Our team of dog bite lawyers at Tenina Law is dedicated to assisting bite victims in obtaining the rightful compensation they deserve. We are committed to fighting for your rights and providing support as you navigate through your case. What’s even better? You won’t incur any charges unless we secure a favorable outcome for you.
Reach out to us by phone (213) 596-0265 or through our online contact form.