It doesn’t seem fair. You’re taking a walk in a public park, enjoying a party at a friend’s house, or relaxing in your own yard, and a dog suddenly attacks and bites you without any reason. Although the majority of dog bites are minor and do not require medical care, you should still take necessary steps to protect your health and cover any financial consequences resulting from the incident.
Dog Bite Realities in California
Not all state laws treat dog bite cases the same way, but the Golden State provides full protection for victims of unprovoked dog bites.
California Dog Bite Law
According to California Civil Code Section 3342, the state enforces a strict liability rule. This makes owners of dogs responsible if their canine bites anyone in a public space, on the victim’s property, or on the dog owner’s property if an express or implied invitation was issued to the victim. This means the person injured does not have to prove the dog had a history of biting or aggression. It is important to clearly understand this law:
- The strict liability rule applies specifically to dog bites. If the dog causes injury in a different type of incident, such as jumping on someone who subsequently falls, the victim would need to prove the dog owner’s negligence.
- California’s strict liability measure applies to anyone bitten by a dog on public property. This includes nature trails, playgrounds, parks, public sidewalks, and public parking lots.
- Dog bite victims must be on the owner’s property legally or by invitation when the dog bites them. Government civil servants such as postal workers or repair persons contacted by the dog’s owner are not considered trespassers under this law.
Defining a Dog Bite
It’s also necessary to understand the definition of a dog bite. While an open gash with blood comes to mind, this is not always the case. If a dog’s teeth latch onto a person, it is considered a dog bite whether or not the victim’s skin is broken.
Protocols To Follow When a Dog Bite Occurs
The American Veterinary Medical Association reports more than 4.5 million people will experience dog bites each year. The largest groups of dog bite victims are young children and the elderly. Depending on the circumstances and trauma caused by the dog bite incident, initial reactions may range from anxiety to anger or even physical shock, causing rapid breathing, dizziness, and nausea. Whether you or other family members are the victims, be prepared to take these actions:
Collect Yourself and Evaluate the Situation
Your immediate concern should be for your health and well-being. If you are able to move, check for wounds or bleeding. Unless the blood flow is excessive, let the wound bleed for a minute or two to get rid of bacteria before putting on pressure to stop the bleeding.
Seek medical assistance for all bites since the risk of infection is always a concern. If others are nearby, verbally shout for help. If no one is in the vicinity and you need assistance, call 911 on your cell phone.
Ask Witnesses and Bystanders for Contact Information
Whether you are able to do it yourself or need to enlist help from someone on the scene, now is the time to get the phone numbers or email addresses of anyone who witnessed the dog bite you. Trying to track down witnesses even a day or two later is a difficult and costly task.
Determine the Dog Responsible for the Bite
Sometimes the dog’s owner is right there, containing the dog after it bites you. If a loose or runaway dog attacks you, it may be harder to identify the guilty canine. In this case, contact the police or animal control. You should report the incident to the proper authorities as soon as possible to record and document all details.
Locate the Dog’s Owner
If the dog’s owner is not on the scene, you will probably need the help of police or animal control authorities. Make sure to get the owner’s contact information, the name of any homeowners or other insurance company involved, and proof of current rabies vaccination status or the name of the dog’s vet to confirm this.
Photograph Your Injuries and the Attack Location
It’s critical to take photos of the bite wounds before treatment if possible. If you can’t do it yourself, ask someone else on site to take pictures and email them to you or have your medical provider document the wounds with photos.
Find Help for Your Claim From a Personal Injury Attorney
California protects its citizens with explicit dog bite legislation, but it is important to file a claim for your injuries within the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury. A lawyer with experience in this area can review the facts of your dog-bite incident, organize the supporting evidence, and help you obtain compensation for medical expenditures, lost wages, and any scars or permanent damage. Contact us at the Law Offices of Brent D. George as soon as possible for a free consultation.