California Dog Bite Law and Recent Incidents in the Bay Area
While dogs may be considered invaluable companions and “man’s best friend,” some otherwise gentle and friendly pets unexpectedly can bite or knock a person down without provocation. In California, dog bite attacks have increased during the past few years and have caused serious harm to human beings. Even less severe dog bites can leave victims with scars and emotional trauma.
In a recent San Francisco serious dog bite incident, two pit bulls attacked a small dog in a designated unleashed area at Dolores Park. When four people tried to break up the attack, they were all bitten by the pit bulls and suffered injuries that required hospitalization.
During another recent dog bite attack, a man lost his ears and part of his nose and is now permanently disfigured. He has undergone several major reconstructive surgeries, but he will never be the same and may suffer a lifetime of pain and disability. In many cases, people who’ve been bitten and attacked by a dog suffer from post-traumatic stress from which they may never recover.
Because animals can be unpredictable, a dog bite is almost always sudden and unexpected. The victims of dog bite attacks don’t expect to be bitten and rarely have any time to defend against the injuries they endure, especially from large breed dogs.
California Dog Bite Laws
In California, the dog bite laws are among the most strict in the U.S. Under California’s dog bite law, section 3342 of the Civil Code, it holds dog owners responsible and liable for damages caused by a dog bite whether the dog had a history of biting and/or attacks or not. To hold a dog owner responsible for the attack, the bite must have happened in a public place or in a lawfully occupied private location.
The California dog bite laws state that if the attacking dog had never bitten a person before and wasn’t known to be a danger, the owner can still be held monetarily liable for damages to the victim but is unlikely to be held criminally culpable. However, if an owner knows their dog is dangerous, especially if it has been trained to fight, attack, and kill and was not properly contained during the bite incident, they may not only be held monetarily liable but also may be guilty of a felony punishable by up to four years in a state prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Anytime you own a bigger dog, it can do a lot more harm to people. So, you have to take it upon yourself to be more responsible,” said John Welsh, Riverside County Department of Animal Services public information specialist. “Dog bites are preventable as long as pet owners are responsible by keeping their dogs in their own property.”
And when dog owners aren’t responsibly in control of their pet, innocent people can be attacked and/or bitten.
But serious damage to humans isn’t limited to large dog bite attacks. Even small breed dogs can do major damage when they bite. A tiny chihuahua’s bite force is estimated to be 3,900 psi which can puncture skin, bruise, maim and lead to infection.
Getting Legal Representation
If you or a loved one was attacked and/or bitten by a dog, the owner may be required through a civil personal injury lawsuit to compensate you for injuries, scars, disfigurement, medical costs, and psychological damage. Typically these claims are covered by homeowners or renters insurance. Some breeds, such as Chows and Pit Bulls, are now excluded from coverage on some policies. To determine whether the owner of the dog that bit and attacked you should pay for the harm caused, a personal injury attorney can evaluate the circumstances and advise you whether and how you can be compensated. In the case where a dog has seriously injured or killed a loved one, you should discuss your case with Callaway & Wolf, highly experienced dog bite attorneys in San Francisco.
After a dog bite, several issues should be considered to assess the owner’s financial culpability. For instance:
- Was the bite attack unprovoked?
- Did the attack occur on public property?
- Did the attack occur on lawfully occupied private property?
- Was the dog off leash when the attack occurred?
- Did the dog have a previous history of bites and/or attacks?
- Had the dog been trained to attack, bite, or kill?
- Is the dog identified as one of the more dangerous breeds?
Besides compensation for medical bills, prescription costs, health insurance co-pays, lost income and other expenses when a person suffers a dog bite, a court may also award punitive damages depending upon the circumstances surrounding the attack.
The experienced, qualified lawyers at Callaway & Wolf Law can fight on your behalf to recover the maximum compensation allowed under California law when you or a loved one was attacked by a dog. As our client, you are assured that we’ll work vigilantly towards a just and fair settlement for the injuries sustained because of a dog bite attack.
To schedule a free, respectful no-obligation consultation with our legal team to discuss a dog bite injury, call us today at 415-541-0300 before the strict statute of limitations expires. During your meeting with us in our Bay Area law office, we’ll review the circumstances surrounding the dog bite attack and advise you on the actions you’ll need to take to be fairly compensated for your injuries and damages.
Boone Callaway is a personal injury & medical malpractice lawyer in San Francisco who has been working with clients in the Bay Area for over 25 years. Mr. Callaway is one of only a few personal injury litigators in San Francisco who is a Super Lawyer, AV Rated and is also a member of ABOTA – American Board of Trial Advocates.