"He just wants to play," the dog owner says, but dog bites are nothing to play around with. In California, the owner of an animal that bites another is strictly liable for injuries caused to the victim regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe the dog was dangerous. Strict liability applies whether the attack occurs on public or private property, provided the victim was lawfully on that property.
If you were attacked and bitten by a dog, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Seek medical attention immediately. Dog bites can cause serious injury, infection, or disease. In addition to treating the injury, a medial professional may want to give you a tetanus shot.
2. Get the dog owner's name, phone number and other contact information and immediately report the incident to local animal control officials. Also get contact information for any witnesses of the attack.
3. If the keeper of the dog is not the owner, he or she may also be liable.
4. If the victim can prove that the dog owner was negligent in handling; for example, for allowing the dog to roam without a leash, the owner may be liable.
5. If the dog was provoked, the dog bite laws may not apply.
6. If the dog attacked but did not bite, the statute does not apply. However, the victim may be able to sue for ordinary negligence.
7. Special provisions apply if the victim is under age five.
8. If the injured person was trespassing, he or she may not be able to collect damages. Damages include medical expenses, time off of work and pain and suffering.
9. Generally speaking, the injured person has two years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit and a minor has two years from their eighteenth birthday.
10. Despite California's strict dog bite laws, our state has one of the highest rates of dog bite claims.