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.
If someone legally enters the property of another person and is bitten by that person’s dog, or if an owner’s dog escapes and attacks a person off the owner’s property, that owner is liable for any damages. Owners are not liable if the dog is simply protecting its home and owner or if the dog is being used in a policing capacity.
The law also provides for the destruction of a dog if the animal has bitten twice or if the dog has been trained to fight and seriously injures a person. Section 3342.5 gives the prosecuting attorney of the city or county the authority to bring an action against the owner for this type of remedy, and tasks the local government with the responsibility of carrying out these actions.
Finally, there are some cities in California that have enacted breed-specific legislation against certain breeds. Under these laws the ownership of certain breeds (usually pit bulls) is completely banned.
Overall, the dog bite law in California boils down to two important facts: first, owners are responsible for their animals; second, there is no “one-bite” rule on liability as there is in some states. In California, the first time a dog bites, the owner is liable for the damages.
Owners may find themselves liable for medical bills incurred by dog bite victims, as well as payments for ongoing expenses such as increased living costs. They may also have to pay for psychological counseling to help victims recover from emotional trauma, as well as general pain and suffering. Finally, California has laws in place that may also subject owners to jail time or monetary fines, if they were found criminally negligent in allowing their dog to attack.
For an answer to this question, please view the video below.
It’s no coincidence that half of all victims who get bitten in the face are children. Children are roughly the same height as dogs and their erratic, excitable movements can lead a dog to believe the child is either prey or a threat. The best way to prevent your child from being bitten is to teach him or her the rules for behaving around dogs and other pets. In the Dog Bite Resources section, we’ve included several links that will provide you with the information you and your family need to help prevent dog bites.
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.
- Pitbull-type dogs
- German Shepherds
- Husky-type dogs, including Siberian Huskies
- Wolf-dog hybrids
- Mixed-breed dogs
- Chow Chows
- Saint Bernards
Yes, when a minor is bitten, you have until two years after the minor’s 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. Also, in California, children under the age of 5 are considered “faultless” in dog bite accidents.If your child has been attacked and hurt by a dog, our best advice would be to consult with an experienced dog bite lawyer. Although for minor children, the two-year statute of limitations to file a claim is tolled until the minor child reaches his or her 18th birthday, is it important that you take action soon after an incident, so that all evidence and documents are preserved.
Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies generally cover the holder of the policy if their dog bites someone. That means the insurance company pays the victim’s medical bills and other damages instead of the dog owner bearing the cost alone. If you’re a dog owner, it’s important to check your policy regularly. In recent years, insurance companies have been excluding certain breeds, especially pit-bull types, from coverage. If the dog owner has no insurance, he or she is still held financially responsible for the attack.
This literature may be considered attorney advertising or an offer of professional services, according to rule 1-400 Rules of Professional Conduct by the State Bar of California. The information does not constitute a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the outcome of your potential legal matter.