An introduction to California dog bite claims

Legal remedies could include strict liability or common law claims.

Los Angeles had the dubious distinction in 2014 of having had the most dog attacks on postal workers at 74, up from 61 the previous year, reported the Los Angeles Times. More than 416 attacks occurred if you expand the count to all of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

If postal employees are being bitten, then ordinary residents are also at risk, especially vulnerable children or the elderly. Dog bite injuries can be severe, including:

  • Infection ranging from common bacteria to serious conditions like tetanus or rabies
  • Puncture wounds
  • Cuts and tears
  • Damage to tendons, muscles, nerves and bones
  • Scarring that often requires plastic surgery
  • Anxiety, trauma and even posttraumatic stress syndrome or PTSD
  • Facial injury, including damage to the eyes, nose, mouth or ears
  • Occasional death

Since 1953, the California dog bite statute has made dog owners strictly liable for damages from dog bites that occur either in public places or in private places, including on the property of the dog owners, if the victims were there legally at the express or implied invitations of the owners or to perform duties under state or federal laws. Examples of lawful entry onto private property by law or pursuant to express or implied permission include postal workers or private cargo deliverers, service or repair workers, meter readers, emergency responders and so on.

Since 1988, military or police dog bites have been exempt in certain situations.

Strict liability means that the dog owner would be responsible for all damages flowing from the bite whether or not he or she had taken precautions to secure or restrain the dog and whether or not the owner had any reason to think the dog would attack. Such damages could include medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages, therapy expenses and more.

In addition to bringing a lawsuit under the strict liability dog bite law, depending on the circumstances, other legal remedies may include claims for negligence, negligence per se (if bite occurred while a law was being broken like a local leash law), negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress and more.

Any Californian who has suffered a dog bite or whose child has should speak to a lawyer about what legal rights and potential remedies are available. Legal counsel will conduct an investigation that would include interviewing witnesses, inspecting the premises where the injury occurred, checking the history of the dog's behavior and more. In addition to the dog owner, other potentially responsible parties could include an insurer, dog sitter, dog walker, landlord, breeder, previous dog owner, animal shelter or rescue organization, or property owner, depending on the situation.

From their four offices in the Los Angeles area, the attorneys of Vititoe Law Group, represent dog bite victims and their families as well as clients injured by the negligence or reckless behavior of others.