PROTECTING THE CONSUMER

DOG BITE CASES – WHEN DOGS ARE NOT MANS BEST FRIEND

Just for the record, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am a huge dog lover. They are my best friends. I have owned dogs all of my life and currently own two beautiful Golden Retrievers. But please let the record reflect that despite their domestic status, dogs are animals, and even the most trusted dog can inflict massive injuries on children and adults. I know – I have seen innocent children with missing ears, gaping holes in their faces, and gashes all over their body – caused by “friendly” dogs.

In California, owners of dogs are strictly liable for injuries or death caused to others resulting from dog bites. It doesn’t matter that the dog has never bitten anyone before, or has never shown aggression toward people or other dogs. The dog is not entitled to one free bite! If your dog does bite a person, you as its owner may be found liable for all past and future medical bills, loss of past and future earnings, and for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. These damages can be financially devastating to the injured victim, as well as the dog owner.

Moreover, a dog owner can be considered grossly negligent and therefore responsible for punitive damages (which can be massive!) if the owner knows of the dog’s vicious propensity and does not take necessary and proper precautions to safeguard the dog.

In my practice, I see the same breeds time and time again which seem to be more prone to attacking people. Children seem to be bitten more often than adults. These breeds include German Sheperds, German Sheperd mixes, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Akitas, and Dalmatians.

Homeowners insurance will usually cover injuries caused by dogs, but some companies are now excluding the above-mentioned dogs on the grounds that they are assumed vicious. You should check with your insurance company to see if your dog breed is excluded from your coverage. If your dog breed is excluded, you will bear the full responsibility to the injured party in the event of an injury caused by your dog.

If you are a homeowner with any dog (especially large breeds), you should exercise caution and common sense to avoid having your dog attack someone. The following tips will help:

1. Always keep dogs on leash, and do not let children walk dogs which are too big for them to easily handle.
2. Have your dog professionally trained.
3. Make sure that your dog is properly fenced in at all times. This includes locked gates, no holes under fencing, and fencing tall enough where the dog cannot jump over the fence.
4. When a guest comes over, (especially children) keep the dog away from the guest.
5. Make sure all screen doors and windows are secure. (I had a case once where a dog bolted through a torn screen door to attack a child.)
6. Make sure your dog has been fully vaccinated.
7. Know who your dog breeder is before you purchase a dog. If possible, get references of the breeder. You may learn that the trusted breeder has a history of breeding dogs trained to fight.
8. Never allow a person to put his or her face near a dog’s face.

Being on the receiving end of a dog bite can certainly be tragic, and costly, for all concerned. Use caution and common sense around all dogs, friendly or not, and just try to remember that the dog which you thought was your best friend, may wind up being your worst foe. If you do get bit though due to negligence, I am an experienced dog bite attorney in Valencia CA and can certainly help you get fair compensation for your injuries.