It is estimated that dogs bite nearly 4.5 million people a year. One-fifth of those who are bitten will need to seek medical attention for the injuries they sustain. If your dog has bitten someone, there are some steps to take immediately after an attack. And these steps are crucial. They will determine whether or not the victim files a lawsuit.

Though there are statistics that show that certain breeds are more prone to biting, any breed can bite anyone. Dogs do not discriminate; especially if they are feeling threatened in any way. Even if the dog has never shown signs of aggression in the past, they can still bite.

Here are some things to do after the attack:

  • The first thing to do after your dog bites someone is to remain calm at all times.
    • You do not want to argue or accuse anyone of anything
    • Arguing may make your dog more aggressive and it is likely that your dog will attack again.
    • Being nice and polite is always the best route to go because the victim may decide to be nice and not involve a lawyer.
  • Act reasonably and quickly if there are injuries.
    • If the injuries are serious, make sure that the victim gets medical attention right away.
    • It is important for the victim to have the bite mark checked and tended to. This is to make sure there are no deeper wounds and to prevent infection.
  • Note: it is illegal in most states to leave the scene of a dog bite when your dog bites someone.
  • Make sure to exchange information and establish a clear line of communication between yourself and the victim.
    • Make sure to give them your name, phone number, address, etc. to the victim.
    • Acquire information from the victim.
  • Notify your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance agency about the incident.
    • If there is a lawsuit, it will be your insurance company that will cover you and pay any damages during this time.
  • Locate your dog’s medical records
    • Make sure to make copies of your dog’s medical records to include rabies shots and give it to the victim. This will help put their mind at ease.
  • Always be honest!
    • We know that you will want to protect your dog at all costs, but it is very important to tell the truth and be honest with the authorities.

Strict Liability in Dog Bite Cases

California is a “strict liability” state. This means that the owner of the dog can be held responsible for any injuries the dog causes “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners knowledge of such viciousness.” In short, an owner cannot claim that they did not know the dog would act aggressively.

Criminal Liability

In certain circumstances, a dog owner may face criminal charges as well as a civil suit for a dog attack. If criminal charges are filed, the victim may still be able to bring the case to court.

California’s criminal laws regarding dog bites only apply to dogs that are considered “dangerous” or “vicious.”

Examples of a “dangerous” dog are:

  • has acted aggressively in such a way that has forced another person to defend her/himself
    • on at least two different occasions in the previous 36 months, while away from the owner’s property;
  • the dog has bitten another person causing non-severe injuries’;
  • the dog has bitten, killed, or injured another domestic animal at least twice within the past 36 months, while away from the dog owner’s property.

Examples of a “vicious” dog are:

  • one who has aggressively inflicted severe injuries or killed someone;
  • a dog that has been listed as “dangerous” but whose owner has failed to follow the law for keeping dangerous dogs.

If an owner of a dangerous or vicious dog lets the animal roam free and do not take precautions to protect those around them, the owner may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony if the dog causes serious and/or fatal injuries.

Have You Been Bitten by a Dog? Contact us today!

Checking in with the victim a few days after the attack is always recommended. Showing that you are genuinely concerned with their wellbeing will help establish a relationship with them. However, we do advise that you are careful of what you say. This is because, if they do decide to hire an attorney, whatever you say can be used against you. Show compassion, of course, kindness cannot be used against you in court.

If your dog has bitten someone, you are liable for any damages that have been caused by your dog, as California Civil Code section 3342 states.