A five year old Fremont girl was recently attacked by a German Shepherd causing her serious personal injuries. She was with her parents visiting friends when the dog, without provocation, bit the girl on her ear, severing the tip of it. She was taken immediately to the hospital. Reportedly, the dog had a prior history of other aggressive behavior and biting incidents. Local authorities euthanized the animal.
The law regarding incidents such as this is clear. Civilly, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for personal injuries caused by his animal. California Civil Code section 3342 states that the owner of a dog is liable to anyone who is bitten by their dog in a public place or lawfully in a private place, regardless of whether the dog had previously bitten anyone else. In other words, California places the responsibility for personal injuries caused by dog bites squarely on the dog owner. The owner is responsible for all damages caused, regardless of whether the owner was negligent in owning, training or otherwise watching over the animal.
In addition to the owner of the dog, others may also be legally liable for dog bite attacks. For example, a landlord may be liable if one of his tenants' dogs bites someone under certain circumstances. If the dog had dangerous propensities, or had previous aggressive behaviors, and the landlord either knew or should have known of the dog's history and failed to take reasonable precautions to protect the public against the dog, the landlord can also be held responsible for the personal injuries caused by the dog.
Dog bite attacks are generally covered by the owners' homeowner's insurance or renter's liability insurance. The insurance carrier is responsible for all medical expenses, costs of plastic surgery, scar revisions, and other reasonable and appropriate medical treatment. Additionally, the insurance carrier would be required to reimburse for any lost wages caused by the attack, and for general damages for pain and suffering. The pain and suffering component of the claim is often the largest component of the settlement, as there is often permanent physical scarring and emotional trauma as well.
Dog bite attacks where there is scarring should not be settled for at least one year following the injury. The reason for that is that it generally takes one year for the scar to completely heal. At this point, a well qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate what type surgery, if any, would best ameliorate the scar. A report can also be obtained at this point fully documenting the need for any and all future treatments and the costs thereof.
As a Fremont personal injury lawyer who has represented numerous dog bite victims over the years I know how traumatizing these attacks can be. I also know the importance of getting top notch medical care and retaining the best plastic surgeons to properly evaluate these injuries. If you have been bitten by a dog, you should know your legal rights and be treated by a plastic surgeon who is attentive to the needs of dog bite victims in order to be fairly compensated for your personal injuries.
Oakland Tribune, Dog bites, injures 5-year-old Fremont girl, April 28, 2011