Dog Bites

With year-round beautiful weather, the Temecula Valley and the greater Southern California region in general have become havens for cultivating a “dog-friendly” lifestyle for our canine companions and devoted owners alike.  We not only have plenty of spacious dog parks, but we also have a multitude of eating and shopping establishments that warmly welcome and even cater specifically to our four-legged friends and their humans.  We even have certain beaches devoted to the enjoyment of our beloved dogs!

Despite our devotion to dogs, however, California law is among the strictest of its kind in the entire nation when it comes to animals aggressively attacking human beings.  Sadly, it is true that even the most seemingly mild-mannered canines can become dangerous and unpredictable under various circumstances.  When an unexpected animal attack occurs, the consequential damage can be devastating, both physically and emotionally.  In these instances, it is essential that you act quickly and contact the seasoned professionals at Temecula Valley Personal Injury Attorneys.  As practicing attorneys with over forty combined years of litigation experience, you can be assured that we know the law and are ready and willing to fight for you, so that you can focus on the all-important task of healing.

The “dog bite statute” is clearly outlined in California Civil Code section 3342, which states in relevant part, that “[t]he owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog 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.”  This strict liability standard means that the owner of any offending dog is legally responsible for all injuries caused by a bite or attack, even in situations where the dog has never bitten or attacked before, and even if the owner had no reason to believe that their animal was in fact dangerous.

It is significant to note that this statute generally includes invited guests who are injured by an animal attack on private property, such as at a home or apartment, as well as those individuals performing a legal duty on private property, such as postal workers delivering the mail.  The statute generally does not apply to trespassers, individuals who provoked the dog, or those persons performing a paid service when injured by a dog, such as veterinarians and veterinary staff technicians. 

In instances where a dog has previously bitten or attacked a person, California law imposes an even greater degree of responsibility upon the dog’s owner in cases where there is a subsequent attack or bite by the same dog. California Civil Code section 3342.5, subdivision (a) states that, “[t]he owners of any dog that has bitten a human being shall have the duty to take such reasonable steps as are necessary to remove any danger presented to other persons from bites by the animal.” 

A dog is considered potentially dangerous if it behaves aggressively on at least two separate occasions in a three-year period.  Aggressive behavior must involve either hurting or killing another domestic pet, biting another human being, or forcing someone to defend themselves against aggressive behavior from the animal without provocation.  A dog is considered vicious if it has previously killed or seriously injured a human being using aggressive force, if the animal has been engaged in any form of illegal dog fighting, or if a court has previously decided that the animal was potentially dangerous and the dog is involved in a subsequent attack, or the owner of the dog did not take proper steps to remedy the peril.

If you, or someone you know, has fallen prey to an unprovoked animal attack, these classifications may be potentially significant, as you may be entitled to heightened civil damages and increased monetary compensation.  Furthermore, in cases where a dog has bitten on more than two separate occasions, the District Attorney may intervene and assess the situation to determine whether the pet owner took appropriate measures to avoid the recurrence of a similarly dangerous situation.  Depending on their findings, the law may allow the prosecuting agency to file criminal charges against the dog owner, order removal of the dog from the home, and in extreme cases, even order that the dog be euthanized.

Injuries resulting from an unprovoked animal attack often run the gamut and may not always be obvious in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic experience.  Therefore, it is extremely important to seek medical attention quickly and closely monitor your own physical condition in the hours, days, weeks and sometimes even months, following such an attack.  This is especially true in cases where the unsuspecting victim is a very young child, an elder, or an immune-compromised person, who may be more susceptible to the risks of infection.   The probability of contracting rabies is also a significant concern in any dog bite situation.  If left untreated, rabies can cause devastating neurological consequences and other long-lasting health conditions.

Oftentimes, dog bite situations will require immediate medical attention.  Open flesh wounds that penetrate the skin deeply may require suturing.  Torn ligaments, tendons, and damaged muscle tissue resulting from an animal attack can sometimes result in the need for surgical intervention.  Broken bones may need to be reset or require casting or some other form of immobilization so that the body can begin to heal itself.  In extreme cases, disfigurement may also be a tragic consequence of an animal attack.  In such situations, the victim may suffer permanent scarring, or require plastic surgery to repair especially extensive damage. 

Dog bites not only cause a plethora of physical injuries, but they can also be mentally and emotionally traumatizing for the victims as well.  Depression, loss of sleep, fear of venturing outside, are just some of the most commonly reported mental health conditions experienced by victims in the aftermath of an animal attack.

If you or someone you know has been injured because of a dog bite or animal attack in the greater Southern California area, it is imperative that you act quickly and contact the knowledgeable and experienced professionals at Temecula Valley Personal Injury Attorneys.  We take great pride in our steadfast commitment to providing individualized attention to each client in every case.  We understand that experiencing an animal attack of any kind can be a physically damaging and emotionally traumatizing experience.  You absolutely need to your rights, and you deserve an honest assessment regarding whether you have a legal claim of action that entitles you to monetary compensation in the form of damages, medical expenses, lost wages, and more.  We can help!  Call us today or visit us online for free case assessment before it is too late.

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