There’s no doubt about it, we are a nation of dog lovers. According to the Humane Society, there are 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States. Thirty-nine percent of American households own at least one dog. Dogs make excellent companions for young and old alike. But when a dog bites a human, our best friend can instantly become our worst enemy.
Dog attacks have a wide range of severity and impact. If you have been injured or lost a loved one as a result of a dog attack, our experienced dog bite attorneys can help with your recovery and advise you about your legal options. At Demas Law Group, we’ve been helping dog bite victims receive fair compensation for their injuries for more than 20 years.
Unfortunately, dog bites happen a lot more often than you might think. Every 40 seconds, someone is bitten by a dog and requires medical attention, according to the Center for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association. This can be a parent’s worst nightmare, and half of all of those bitten are children ages 5 to 9.
Further complicating matters, two-thirds of those bitten are familiar with the dog that bit them, and in many of those cases, the dog owner is also a family friend. In California, dog owners can be held legally liable for any injury or death their animal causes. However, some dog bite victims aren’t that inclined to seek compensatory damages from friends and neighbors, even though it’s their legal right and most homeowner and renter insurance policies cover dog bite accidents.
Before making this or any other difficult decision about your accident, it is always wise to contact an experienced dog bite attorney first.
Every accident is different, but dog bites as a whole present unique characteristics that require immediate action if you or a loved one have been bitten.
The first thing you should do if you’ve been bitten by a dog is seek immediate medical attention, even if you think the bite is minor. Dog bites can spread germs that severely infect bite wounds, if they’re not cleaned and dressed properly. Severe bites can lead to permanent scarring and disfigurement that may require corrective plastic surgery, especially if you’ve been bitten in the face, as are half of all victims admitted to emergency rooms. If you have not received a tetanus shot in more than five years, make sure to tell the doctor.
It is also extremely important to have the dog that bit you tested for the rabies virus, which can be fatal. In the majority of cases, you’ll know the identity of the dog and its owner. However, if the dog is a stray or otherwise unknown to you, it’s crucial to track it down and have it tested. You should report any dog that bites you to the local police or animal control agency, and they may be able to help find the dog and its owner if you don’t know the identity. If you cannot find the dog, you may have to undergo a series of rabies shots.
After your medical needs have been attended to, you may require mental health treatment. Being attacked and bitten by a dog is a traumatic event, especially for children, who may suffer from anxiety, nightmares and long-term phobias. Obtaining prompt mental health care can help you heal more quickly from the psychological trauma of a dog bite attack.
Also as soon as possible, you should document your dog bite accident, including taking photographs of your injuries and writing down everything you remember about the attack. Your next step is to talk to an experienced dog bite attorney like the ones at Demas Law Group.
1. How serious are dog bites?
Dog bites are both a serious national problem and an event that can be physically and mentally scarring for victims who’ve been severely bitten. Every year 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs. About one in five, 800,000 people, seek medical treatment, including 386,000 people who visit hospital emergency rooms. In 2012, dogs killed 38 people.If you’ve heard the old saying that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans, don’t believe it. Canine mouths are swarming with bacteria and viruses that can cause a multitude of serious and even fatal infections in the person bitten. Dogs can bite down with a pressure as high as 450 pounds per square inch—enough to fracture bones and the human skull—and the deeper the teeth chew through skin, flesh, tendon and bone, the higher the chance of developing a bacterial or viral infection.The most serious of these infections is rabies, a virus that infects the brain and nervous system and eventually causes death. Thanks to vaccination and public education programs, cases of rabies have been virtually eliminated in the United States, down to one or two cases per year, which usually come from rabid bat bites. Nevertheless, for safety purposes, your treating physician may recommend you undergo a series of rabies shots if you can’t identify and test the dog that bit you. The good news is the treatment today is a lot less painful than in the past.
Another one of the more serious infections that can develop after a dog bite is Tetanus, which can lead to a tightening of the muscle fibers, especially around the face, known as lockjaw. That’s a good reason to have a Tetanus shot every five years, but if yours is overdue, you will need to get a booster.
Other infections caused by dog bites are less severe only because they aren’t usually fatal. Bites on the extremities, especially the hands, are more prone to infection because of the way our immune system works. When wounds get infected, they may not heal properly, a particularly distressing prospect for those who’ve been bitten in the face. If the bite or bites go deep enough, infection can spread throughout the body, even to the brain.
Scarring related to dog bites is one of the most common injuries sustained by victims of dog bites and attacks. A bite can consist of anything from a puncture wound to sizable laceration involving skin and underlying tissue. Deep wounds may require many stitches or surgery to close and repair and may result in permanent scarring.
A horrifying example of just how much damage dogs can do occurred in the greater Sacramento area in Rancho Cordova in 2012. Two unleashed pit bulls savagely mauled one man and severely bit another who tried to help ward of the attack. The man who was mauled was taken to UC Davis Medical Center in critical condition with severe bites to face, stomach, back, arms and legs. Fortunately, he survived.
No matter how “minor” the dog bite, you should always seek immediate medical treatment.
2. Should I hire a personal injury attorney after a dog bite?
For an answer to this question, please view the video below.
3. Why do dogs attack children?
4. What breeds of dogs are the most dangerous?
In 2000, the Center for Disease Control and the Humane Society of the United States released a report that tracked dog bite fatalities over a 20-year period, from 1979-1998. The report ranked the number of fatalities caused by purebreds, crossbreeds, and mixed-breeds to come up with this list of the ten top deadliest dogs.
5. What are California’s laws regarding dogs and dog bites?
In California, dogs are required to be on a leash when off the owner’s property–with very few exceptions. If an unleashed dog bites you, the owner is legally responsible for your injuries. However, it is not necessary to show the owner was negligent, or had knowledge that the animal was vicious. In California, there is no “one free bite” rule. All dog bites are covered by California’s strict liability law, which means the owner can still be found responsible for your injury, even if he or she wasn’t negligent. The law only requires victims to be in a public place or on private property with permission. For example, if you were legally on the owner’s private property and his legally unleashed dog bit you through no fault of your own, the owner may still be held liable for the attack.One major exception: Police, military and other government agencies that use attack dogs to complete their duties are usually exempt from the strict liability dog bite laws. However, the police or governmental entity could still be liable if they were negligent in the use of their dogs.In California, you have two years from the date of injury to file a dog bite liability lawsuit, unless the defendant is a government agency. Then special rules may apply that limit the time you can file a claim to 60 days after the injury. Your dog bite lawyer can help you determine what rules apply to your case.
6. Are there any special laws for children who have been bitten?
7. What kind of insurance covers dog bites?
8. Where can I get more information on filing a claim after a dog bite and what types of damages I can sue for?
9. Are there any resources you would recommend for dog bite victims?