More than 4.5 million Americans suffer dog bites every year, with approximately 20 percent requiring medical attention. Especially for children and senior citizens, dog bites can lead to serious injuries that need immediate medical attention or even corrective surgery.
With more than 70 million dogs in homes around the country, it is crucial to understand California dog bite laws and what your legal options are if you are bitten. California’s “dog bite law” is found in Civil Code section 3342: “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.” Therefore, if you were bitten by someone’s dog in a public place or in their home, the owner is legally liable for your injuries and any other costs incurred by the bite.
As a “strict liability” state, as long as you can prove that the dog bit you and that you suffered injury in some way, you are eligible to collect damages from the owner.
In some states, the dog’s history determines whether or not the owner will be held liable for injuries. In other words, if the dog has not bitten anyone before, the owner gets “one free bite” before being held legally accountable; after the dog has bitten someone once, the owner will be held liable. However, California does not subscribe to the “one free bite” rule. Regardless of whether or not the dog has any history of aggression or biting, the owner can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog.
After a bite, you may be wondering whether or not it is worth it to take legal action. While some dog bites are very mild, even bites that fail to break the skin can hurt the tissues underneath. Dogs have powerful teeth and jaws, which can cause serious medical complications, such as internal damage, infections, skin tearing, and tissue or muscle damage. In addition, being bitten in certain areas can be very dangerous to internal organs. Dog mouths are home to plenty of bacteria, which can be introduced to the body through a bite that breaks the skin.
Other medical risks of dog bites include:
- Septic arthritis: joint infections that develop from a penetrating bite wound
- Osteomyelitis: infection of the bone
- Localized abscesses: a painful mass that develops when bacteria is left untreated
- Generalized cellulitis: a tissue infection from untreated bacteria
- Pyothorax: pus in the chest cavity that develops from bites in the chest region
- Septic peritonitis: pus in the abdominal cavity
- Rabies: a viral disease that infects the central nervous system and brain
- Puncture wounds and scars
- Broken bones
If you have questions about dog bite claims or want to get the legal process started, Welebir | Tierney can help. Call (888) 504-0444 or contact Welebir, Tierney & Weck online to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.