Dog BitesWhen a Friendly Dog Turns Aggressive: Unprovoked Dog Bite Cases

June 6, 20240

Most dogs are loyal, loving companions that enrich our lives. However, even dogs that are normally docile can sometimes act out of character and bite someone, even their owner, without provocation or warning. Dog bites can cause severe injuries, from puncture wounds and scarring to infections, nerve damage, and broken bones requiring surgery. Under certain circumstances, dog owners may be held legally liable for unprovoked bites by their pets. This article provides an overview of liability issues and legal options for victims in unprovoked dog bite cases.

Dog Bite Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs bite over 4 million people annually in the United States. One in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical care. Children are the most frequent victims, followed by senior citizens. The majority of serious bites involve pit bulls, rottweilers, and hybrids of these two breeds. However, any breed or size of dog can inflict harm. Most bites occur on the extremities like arms, legs, hands, and feet. Common injuries include lacerations, punctures, scarring, infections, fractures, and amputations. Around 30-50 fatal dog attacks are documented every year in the U.S.

California Dog Bite Laws

California applies strict liability in dog bite cases under Civil Code section 3342. This means dog owners are responsible for any injuries caused by their pet, regardless of the owner’s knowledge of any previous aggressive behavior by the dog. To prevail in a California dog bite claim, the victim must prove:

  • The defendant owned the dog that bit them
  • The defendant had custody or control of the dog
  • The victim was in a public place or lawfully on private property when the bite occurred
  • The victim did not provoke the dog

California law also establishes no “one bite rule.” Owners can be held liable even if their dog has never shown aggressive tendencies before. However, there are exceptions where the owner may avoid liability, such as:

  • The victim was trespassing or committing a crime on the owner’s property
  • The bite happened while the dog was working in military or police operations
  • The bite occurred during veterinary treatment

California does not impose any breed-specific bans. However, cities and counties may have restrictions on breeds considered inherently dangerous, such as pit bulls. Dog bite victims have two years after the attack to file a lawsuit before exceeding the statute of limitations. Minors who are bitten have until age 20 to take legal action.

Proving Liability for an Unprovoked Attack

In an unprovoked dog bite case where the owner had no reason to suspect aggression, the central question is whether they took reasonable precautions to prevent harm. Specific factors courts may consider include:

  • Was the dog leashed and supervised properly?
  • Did the owner allow the dog near strangers unmuzzled?
  • Was the dog left alone with a child or vulnerable person?
  • Did the owner disregard warning signs like growling or nipping?
  • Did they keep an aggressive dog confined on their premises?
  • Had they trained and socialized the dog to be non-aggressive?

Simply stating “He’s always been such a good dog, I never thought he would do something like this” is generally insufficient. Owners have an ongoing responsibility to protect others from foreseeable risks. One step to demonstrate responsible care is obedience training. Maintaining homeowner’s or renter’s liability insurance that covers dog bites is also advisable. However, some policies may exclude certain breeds considered prone to aggression.

Compensation in Unprovoked Dog Bite Cases

As in other premises liability and negligence claims, someone injured by an unprovoked dog bite can recover both economic and non-economic damages. Standard claims include:

  • Past and future medical bills, such as emergency treatment, surgery, therapy/rehabilitation, prescriptions
  • Lost wages due to inability to work
  • Loss of future earnings capacity
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disfigurement or disability
  • Loss of enjoyment/quality of life

Additionally, the victim may claim compensation for costs directly related to the attack like ruined clothing/shoes, counseling, and veterinary fees if their pet was injured. Punitive damages may be awarded in extreme cases to punish the owner’s negligence. It is advisable to consult a dog bite lawyer to determine the full value of your potential claim.

Consult Our Dog Bite Injury Lawyers

No matter how minor a dog bite may seem initially, there can be lasting repercussions. Physically, nerve damage, disfigurement, or disability could hamper your work and daily life for years to come. Emotionally, an unprovoked attack by a trusted pet can cause anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, and other issues. Holding negligent owners accountable is the best way to get your life back on track. Our experienced dog bite lawyers are here to help injury victims recover the maximum compensation they are owed by law. We handle all aspects of the claims process for you while you focus on healing.

To schedule a free consultation with our dog bite attorneys, call (818) 659-8588 today.

Or, visit our office at 16633 Ventura Blvd. #602 Encino, CA 91436.