Written By Chris Dolan and Carole Okolowicz
This week’s question come from Phill in the North Bay: I am avid hiker and enjoy being outdoors. Not sure if dogs are getting more popular in the last two years, but it appears that I see more people with dogs on the trail now. Some dogs are friendly looking. Some dogs are not so friendly looking, especially when they have the chrome prong leash and they are pulling hard on it. Can you tell me who is ultimately responsible for a dog bite or dog attack?
Thanks for your question. Dogs provide countless benefits to humans including companionship. But these domesticated animals can still lose control and bite or attack people. A vast majority of animal attacks in the US and California are inflicted by dog bites. The California Department of Public Health estimates there are over 5 million dog bites a year in the U.S. Children are more than twice as likely as adults to be the victim of a dog bite.
Animal attacks can be frightening and can result in serious physical and emotional injuries, including severe cuts, abrasions, puncture wounds, infection, lost eyes, permanent disfigurement, scarring and psychological trauma.
Under California law, dog and other animal owners are generally strictly liable for the injuries caused by their animal. Strict Liability means that a dog owner is liable for injuries and damages caused by their dog. The law covers anyone bitten by a dog in a public place or while lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property. It does not matter whether the dog has any history of vicious behavior. If the dog bites someone, the owner is liable.
Under some circumstances, in addition to the owner of the dog, the owner of the property where the dog resides may also be responsible for your injuries, if different from the dog’s owner. If you were attacked on the owner’s property or if you know or believe that a dog escaped from an enclosed yard, for example, keep track of the property’s address.
There are some circumstances when an animal injures another party and the owners are not Strictly Liable. These cases generally involve animal attacks where there was no actual “bite.” For example, a dog may cause a collision or may chase a person riding a bike and cause them to crash. Many situations can occur where an owner has the responsibility to control their animal and they fail to do so. Under a general theory of negligence an owner or other person in control of an animal can be liable for the injuries caused by their animal.
If you have been bitten by a dog you are likely entitled to compensation for your injuries and other damages. In a civil lawsuit you can recover both economic and non-economic damages. In order to get compensation for your losses, you must demonstrate that dog bite or other animal attack caused your injuries and other damages.
Economic damages include the expenses related to any injuries caused by the animal attack. This includes:
- Medical Expenses (past and future)
- Lost Wages
- Wound Care
- Lost Earning Potential
- Physical Therapy
Non-economic damages can also include:
- Psychological Distress / Trauma
- Mental Anguish
- Pain and Suffering
Contact an Animal Attack Lawyer or Dog Bite Lawyer
Following an attack or dog bite, you have the right to seek out legal help to obtain compensation. An experience attorney will help you determine what legal options you have and can assist you in obtaining compensation for your injuries.