There are 90 million dogs in the United States. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1979 and 1996 there were three hundred deaths, mostly children.
Dog bites vary widely in their severity. One in five require medical care. Unfortunately, some dog bites result in serious injuries, including deep tissue damage, permanent disfigurement, and dangerous infections.
Proving liability dog bite has never been a problem. It is simple. When a dog bites, the owner pays. The major issue, even against an insured owner, is collecting for the injury.
California Law: Strict Liability on Dog Owners
In California, dog owners are required to keep the public safe from their animal. Under California law (Civil Code § 3342), strict liability is imposed on all dog owners. Whether the owner was negligent is not an issue because in California a dog owner is legally liable for a dog bite providing
- The victim did not provoke the animal; and
- The victim was in a public place or was lawfully in a private place.
Provocation and/or trespass may be raised by a dog owner as a defense, but in the usual sidewalk biting cases those defenses are not available.
Liability Against Other Defendants: Negligence
To bring a dog bite injury claim against a non-owner, the plaintiff must prove negligence. Claims for negligent control of premises are commonly brought against apartment owners, pet grooming business and veterinarians who fail to act reasonably when on notice of potential harm.
Compensation for Dog Bite Victims: Insurance Companies Wary
Under California law, dog bite victims can recover compensation for economic and non-economic losses from the owner’s apartment or homeowner’s insurance policy. These policies are known to provide general liability coverage for negligent acts and historically for injuries caused by biting dogs.
Insurance companies have decided that they don’t want the legal liability for dogs bred to be aggressive and biters. It is common for these policies to exclude both liability and damages claims against owners of
- Pit-bulls and Staffordshire terriers
- Presa Canarios
- Siberian Huskies.
- Doberman Pinschers.
- German Shepherds.
- Alaskan Malamutes
Owners walk these breeds in public without choke chains or prong collars even though they do not have the strength or body weight to physically restrain a heavy, muscular dog when it springs into attack. Insurers know that when these dogs attack the wounds are serious with deep scarring and muscle loss. Because it is likely these dogs will cause major losses that cannot be defensed, carriers rely on their statistics not to insure their owners.
Two side notes: 1. Be especially careful in the presence of pairs of these dogs. They can readily revert to their genetic roots living in packs. A pack of attack dogs is extremely dangerous. 2. Another dog to soon be added to the dangerous list is the chihuahua, well known to veterinarians to cause deep severe bites commonly on the hands and face. In public steer clear of these ankle-biters.
Damages and Plastic Surgery
Survivors of a dog bite can recover for the full range of damages available to everyone depending on the severity of the injury
- Emergency medical treatment;
- Medical bills and related costs;
- Rehabilitative medical care;
- Psychological counseling;
- Loss of current and wages;
- Diminished earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental distress;
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement.
On this last point, private medical insurance rarely provides coverage for plastic surgery to repair disfiguring scarring. Reconstructive surgery can be secured from a surgeon who agrees to be paid from the victim’s recovery once the lawsuit is resolved or through a medical services vendor who advances the cost of surgery and is paid back once there is a settlement or judgment for the plaintiff.
Contact Our San Jose, CA Personal Injury Attorneys for Immediate Help
Alexander Law Group, LLP attorneys are available to answer questions and share our knowledge of the law and the results of our research and experience. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to make a difference for our clients. Every day we deal with a range of health and safety issues that most people do not encounter until after an injury occurs. As safety lawyers we are committed to providing our clients and the public with information for safer and healthier living. Call 888-777-1776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you.