Dog Bite Injuries Governed by California Dog Bite Statute
According to a 2008 study by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (H-CUP), there are approximately 77.5 million dogs owned in the U.S. The study indicates that in 2008, dog bite incidents resulted in over 315,000 visits to emergency departments and 9,500 hospital stays.
California Civil Code, Section 3342, commonly referred to as the “Dog Bite Statute”, sets forth that dog owners can be held responsible for injuries caused by a dog bite, no matter how careful they are in guarding or restraining their dogs, and regardless of any prior knowledge that a dog was vicious or had dangerous propensities. This statute is an exception to the general common law applying to harm caused by any domestic animal, which requires a showing that the owner knew or should have known about the animal’s unusually dangerous nature or tendencies.
The Los Angeles dog bite lawyers of The Rudman Law Firm, APC have devoted their entire careers of over 60 years of combined legal experience to victims of personal injury. We understand the devastating, and potentially life long, physical and emotional effects that a dog attack can have on a person. From our offices in Studio City and Los Angeles, we are committed to helping victims obtain full and fair compensation for their injuries and damages.
Proving Liability in Dog Bite Cases
In order to succeed in proving liability pursuant to the California Dog Bite Statute, it must be shown that:
- A person owned a dog;
- The dog bit another person while in a public place, or while that person was legally on private property;
- The person bit was harmed;
- The dog was a substantial factor in causing harm to the person bit
Once these elements have been proven, the dog owner will be strictly liable for the injuries caused by the dog bite. As indicated by the second element above, a dog owner may not be responsible if the person bit by the dog was trespassing, and therefore was not lawfully upon, a private property. Further, the defenses of assumption of risk and contributory negligence may still be asserted. This means that a dog owner may attempt to shield or diminish the extent of liability against him or her, by showing that the dog bite victim knowingly and unreasonably approached, or provoked the dog.
Although the California Dog Bite Statute only applies strict liability to a dog’s owner, other forms of liability may be imposed on parties involved or associated with a dog bite incident. As previously stated, common law may make an owner of an animal responsible for harm caused to a person by any domestic animal’s unusually dangerous nature or tendencies, if the owner knew or should have known about the nature or tendencies before the injury occurred. However, this standard does not just apply to dog owners, but to any person that kept or controlled the dog at the time of the incident. Additionally, a landlord may be liable for injuries caused by dangerous animals kept by a tenant, if the landlord had knowledge that there was a dangerous animal on the premises, and had a right under the rental agreement to terminate the tenancy.
Often dog owners, or responsible landlords, may have home owners, renters, or commercial liability insurance policies which may be applicable to dog bite injuries.
The Effects of Dog Bite Injuries
Injuries from dog bites can be quite substantial. Common injuries resulting from dog bites include:
- Lacerations and abrasions
- Open wounds
- Skin and subcutaneous tissue infections
- Crushing or internal injuries
- Connective tissue disease
- Nerve Damage
- Anxiety, Depression and Emotional Distress
Common treatment of dog bites includes:
- Debridement of wound, infection
- Suture of skin and subcutaneous tissue
- Therapeutic procedures on muscles and tendons
- Incision and drainage
- Skin graft
- Fracture and dislocation procedure
- Traction, splints and other wound care
- Psychiatric and psychological care
As can be seen, dog bite injuries can be very serious and leave long lasting scars both physically and emotionally.
Los Angeles Dog Bite Lawyers at The Rudman Law Firm, APC Can Help
Our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys are available to provide a free phone consultation regarding your dog bite injuries. We will evaluate your claim and tell you what you can expect in moving forward with a personal injury case. We can be reached during normal business hours, during the evening or on a weekend at our Los Angeles office by calling (213) 375-3777, our Studio City office by calling (818) 769-6969, or by calling us toll free at (844) 478-3626 / (844) 4RUDMAN. We are here to help.