Houman Fakhimi

Dog Bite Injuries

It’s estimated that nearly 7 in 10 American households have at least one pet. That’s according to American Pet Products Association. Most of these are dogs and cats, and the majority provide loving, loyal companionship and protection.

But dogs in particular can pose a real threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about 4.5 million people in the U.S. suffer dog bites annually, and another 885,000 require medical attention for these injuries. Half of those are children.

The Orange County dog bite lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, know that dog bites were cited in one-third of all homeowner insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2014. That amounted to more than $530 million.

The Insurance Information Institute reports California has consistently had the highest number of dog bite claims made against homeowner liability insurance policies. There were 1,867 made in this state in 2014. The average cost paid for a dog bite claim that year was nearly $33,000, with the average cost per claim having risen 67 percent from 2003 to 2014. Most of that was due to increases in medical costs.

Despite all this, only about 15,000 to 16,000 of the 850,000 who receive medical attention for dog bites actually receive compensation for their injuries. And of those, few actually receive full compensation.

In order to ensure you are one of those, you must consult with a California dog bite lawyer who is well-versed in this area of law.

Types of Dogs Involved in Bites

While any dog is potentially capable of causing an injurious bite, research conducted by dogsbite.org revealed that 19 breeds of dog were identified as contributing to all bite-related deaths over a two-year time frame.

Specifically, the study revealed:

  • 59 percent of deaths were attributed to Pit bulls
  • 14 percent were attributed to Rottweilers

Other breeds cited in bite injury and death cases included:

  • Husky
  • Wolf hybrid
  • Bullmastiff
  • German shepherd
  • Akita
  • Chow
  • Doberman

Even when victims survived their injuries, they often suffered extensive losses in the form of substantial medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Some sustained permanent scarring and disability.

California Dog Bite Law

California’s dog bite law is codified in California Civil Code section 3342. The law holds owners of dogs who bite people liable if:

  • The damages to the injured person were caused by the dog bite.
  • The bite occurred either in a public place or when the victim was lawfully in a private place.

Unlike other states that require victims to prove negligence on the part of a dog owner for bite injuries, California adheres to a theory of strict liability in these cases. What this means is it does not matter if the owner knew the dog was aggressive or if the dog had ever bitten anyone before.

In strict liability dog bite cases, victims don’t have to show the dog’s owner acted without reasonable care.

There are, however, dog-related injuries in which victims could not avail themselves of the strict liability theory and would instead have to prove negligence. Those would be cases in which there was no actual bite, but the dog still caused injury. An example might be a bicyclist who is knocked off his bike by a dog that was chasing him or a dog that jumps and scratches a child who is playing on the sidewalk. In those cases, victims would have to prove the owner failed to use reasonable care to keep the dog secured.

There are some municipalities in the state of California that have enacted their own ordinances with regard to strict liability. In some of these places, strict liability is imposed on dog owners for injuries other than bites.

Exceptions to California’s Dog Bite Law

The dog bite law is applicable to most cases of dog bite injury, but there are some notable exceptions under the statute. Those include:

  • Claims against governmental agencies for use of a dog in military or police work.
  • Bites that occurred when the dog was defending itself from annoyance, harassment or some other provocation.

The provocation provision does not apply to children under 5, because a child of that age is not considered capable of negligence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children under 12 have been bitten by a dog at least once.

Because of the serious nature of dog bite injuries, it’s imperative for victims to seek immediate medical attention and then contact an injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident. This will be your best opportunity to preserve and gather key evidence necessary to establish liability and obtain compensation.

Contact the injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, by calling (714) 705-6701. Serving the Southern California counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.