Dog Bites and Attacks in Southern California
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the United States Humane Society, there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites per year, about 500,000 to 900,000 of which require medical attention. Sadly, children are overrepresented when it comes to dog bites, and many of these attacks result in catastrophic injuries and/or death.
If you were bitten by a dog, or if your child was attacked, you deserve justice. At Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation, we fight to hold negligent and careless dog owners accountable. Led by our Los Angeles dog bite attorney, Scott J. Corwin, we seek maximum compensation on behalf of victims and their loved ones. To date, our firm has recovered more than $125 million for 3,000+ personal injury clients. Learn how we can help you with your case today.
Understanding California Dog Bite Law
California follows a “strict liability” law when it comes to dog bites. Generally speaking, this means that dog owners, handlers, or keepers are always responsible (with some exceptions) for bite injuries. The victim does not necessarily need to prove that the dog owner, handler, or keeper was negligent in order to file a claim and receive compensation for their damages.
Under the state’s strict liability dog bite law, you can bring a claim against a dog owner if both of the following are true:
- You were bitten by a dog owned by or in the care of the defendant and this bite led to injuries and/or damages
- The bite occurred while you were either lawfully on private property, including the dog owner’s home, or in a public place
Even if the dog was on a leash or the dog owner took reasonable measures to prevent the bite, you could still have grounds for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Can You File a Personal Injury Claim If You Were Injured but Not Bitten by a Dog?
Even if you are not bitten, the dog owner or keeper may be liable if you are injured by the animal. For example, if your child was knocked over by the dog and broke a bone or hit their head, you could have a claim against the dog owner, keeper, or handler. However, without a bite, it is necessary to establish negligence. In other words, to have a claim for a non-bite injury caused by a dog, you will need to prove that the dog owner, handler, or keeper was somehow negligent and that this is what led to the incident.
Some examples of dog owner negligence include:
- Allowing a dog to be off a leash in a public area that is not designated as a leash-free zone
- Failing to properly restrain a “dangerous” dog (i.e., one that has bitten or attacked before)
- Permitting a dog to roam or be “at large” in a front yard or other unfenced area
- Failing to take reasonable precautions to keep a dog from causing injury (e.g., keeping it within a fenced yard, keeping it on a leash, posting warning signs, etc.)
- Bringing a dog to an area where they are not permitted, such as a public beach or hiking trail
In most cases, dog owners or any other person responsible for a dog is liable for any personal injuries and/or damages caused by the dog. This applies whether or not the dog has ever bitten anyone before and whether or not the owner has any prior knowledge of the animal’s viciousness.
Defenses for Dog Owners and Exceptions to the Strict Liability Law
There are some cases in which the dog owner, keeper, or handler may not be liable for injuries or damages, even when their dog bites someone.
Common defenses and exceptions to the law include:
- Law Enforcement Dogs: Law enforcement and military dogs that are actively “on duty” when they bite or otherwise injure someone are typically exempt from the strict liability statute. In other words, you cannot bring a claim against a law enforcement agency or similar entity if you are harmed by a working police dog. However, this only applies when the dog is actively carrying out specific work duties and the agency has written policies regarding the handling of dogs.
- Trespassing: Because dog owners are strictly liable for bites that occur on public property or when the victim is lawfully on private property, they may raise the defense of trespassing. If you are found to have been trespassing or unlawfully entering private property when the bite or attack occurred, you might not have a case. If the victim was a child, the dog owner may not be able to use this defense.
- Provocation: Dog owners may also argue that the victim provoked the dog to bite or attack. In such cases, California’s rule of comparative negligence applies here and can affect your case. The degree of fault you are found to have had in the incident will determine your ability to file a claim. If you are anything less than 100 percent at fault, you can still seek compensation, but your total recovery will be reduced by your at-fault percentage.
At Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation, our Los Angeles dog bite attorney is well-versed in the state’s dog bite statutes. With over three decades of experience, he has the skills, resources, and dedication to advocate for your maximum recovery.
What to Do If You Are Bitten by a Dog
It is important to know and teach children the basic rules of interacting with dogs. In general, you should always refrain from approaching or petting strange dogs, especially when the owner is not around. If a dog displays signs of aggression, agitation, or fear—such as growling, bristled hair, stiff posture, or pinned-back ears—stay away. Always ask owners about a dog’s temperament and whether or not it is okay to approach the dog before doing so and remember, even a familiar pet can attack if it feels threatened.
While these actions can help reduce the risk of a bite, it is not always possible to avoid an attack. If you are bitten by a dog, there are several things you should do:
- Seek immediate medical attention. Dog bite injuries can be severe and may lead to serious complications if left untreated, such as infection. You should always see a medical provider after a dog bite, as you may need to receive a series of rabies shots in addition to treatment for your injuries.
- If you can, write down the dog owner’s name and contact information, including their phone number, email, and/or address. If the dog is loose and the owner cannot be located, contact the local animal control department to come collect the dog.
- Take pictures of your injuries and document any other damages you experience, such as physical pain, emotional distress, medical expenses, time off work, lost income, etc. It is a good idea to write down everything you can remember about the attack right away, as your memory of the incident can fade over time.
- Most counties in California require you to report dog bites and attacks to the appropriate animal control department. If you are unable to contact animal control, you may report the incident to law enforcement using a non-emergency number. In Los Angeles, you can report dog bites to the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control Department or the Department of Public Health.
- If you were injured and suffered damages due to the dog bite or attack, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. You should not have to suffer the physical, emotional, and financial consequences of the incident on your own. An attorney can help you hold the dog owner accountable by seeking compensation from the appropriate insurance policy or the dog owner directly.
In California, dogs that bite are not automatically put down. However, these animals must be assessed for rabies and other risks. As such, they are quarantined for at least 10 days following any bite or scratch caused by the teeth. Depending on the specifics of the case, the dog owner may carry out this quarantine on their own property, or it may occur at a private boarding facility or the local animal control agency.
Trust a Firm with Over Three Decades of Experience
At the law firm of Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation, we have successfully handled numerous dog bite injury cases. Attorney Scott J. Corwin has more than 30 years of personal injury experience and a strong reputation for results in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties, as well as throughout the state of California.
Scott J. Corwin holds an Avvo rating of 10.0 “Superb.” He has also been named a member of the National Trial Lawyers Association, Top 100 Trial Attorneys in California and has been selected for inclusion in the Southern California Super Lawyers® list every year from 2007 through the present, with membership limited to the top 5 percent of attorneys.
We recognize that dog bite cases are often highly sensitive, especially when the owner is someone you know. However, remember that dog bite claims are not typically filed against the dog owner directly but against their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. This insurance is there to compensate injured victims, and you have a right to seek a fair recovery. Even if the dog owner is a friend, family member, or neighbor, you should not have to shoulder the burden of massive medical bills, extensive lost wages, and immense pain and suffering on your own.
Providing Personalized, One-on-One Attention
You can count on Attorney Scott J. Corwin to give you the one-on-one attention you need and deserve after a serious dog bite or attack. Your case will never be passed off to a less-qualified associate or paralegal. Our experienced Los Angeles dog bite attorney is here to listen to your story and develop an innovative legal strategy tailored to your unique needs, concerns, and goals.
We proudly offer compassionate and aggressive legal representation on behalf of injured individuals and the families of those wrongfully killed throughout Southern California. Whether you were injured by a dog, or your child was bitten, our team is ready to fight for justice. There are no attorney fees unless we recover a settlement or verdict for you.