The Importance of Documenting a Dog Bite Incident

Dog bites can range from playful nipping to vicious attacks. Even an accidental bite poses a high risk of infection if it breaks the skin. Not every dog that bites is vicious. However, that shouldn’t stop a victim from documenting a dog bite incident. If a dog has bitten you, you must file a report to support your dog bite claim with insurance or in court, and your dog bite lawyer will recommend that you keep an account of the incident.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Most dogs have a bite force between 250 and 450 psi. Factors contributing to bite force include the size of the head, the shape of the jaw, and the size of the dog.

Larger dogs with big heads bite with more power than smaller dogs. This is why dog bite fatalities come from larger breeds like bulldogs, shepherds, and other large working dog breeds rather than small dogs like chihuahuas and dachshunds. Small dogs may be much more aggressive than larger dogs, but they can’t bite with enough power to cause severe injuries or death.

Typical injuries from a dog bite might include:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Lacerations and damage to skin, muscle, and connective tissue
  • Broken bones
  • Nerve damage
  • Facial injuries to the eyes, nose, mouth, or ears
  • Disfigurement
  • Mental or emotional distress

Will a Dog Be Put Down if It Bites Someone in California?

California does not euthanize dogs after a single biting incident in most cases. California will euthanize a dog in certain instances, including if:

  • The dog has rabies (no hearing required)
  • The injuries are serious (mauling, life-threatening injuries, or permanent scarring)
  • The dog has bitten two other people
  • The owner or someone else has trained the dog to attack people

In these circumstances, the owner must attend a hearing in court to determine whether the dog poses enough danger to people or other animals to necessitate euthanasia. The court may also require the owner to keep the dog leashed and muzzled outside the home.

Does Breed Matter?

Most dog attack statistics vary greatly depending on the study. Approximately 4.5 million people in the U.S. suffer a dog bite every year. However, most suffer only minor injuries. Less than 20% of people bitten need medical attention for their injuries. Approximately 30-50 people die each year from dog bite injuries.

But are certain breeds more likely to bite? According to statistics, yes. The breeds most likely to bite include:

  • Pit bulls and other bully breeds
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • German shepherds
  • Presa Canarios
  • Wolf-dog hybrids
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Akitas
  • Chow chows
  • Dobermans
  • Boxers
  • Mixed breeds

However, these statistics may show an overrepresentation of large breeds due to the amount of damage their larger jaws can inflict. Attacks by smaller dogs may be just as likely, but less likely to be reported. Additionally, people are less likely to want to report attacks by their own family pets of any size or breed.

The courts in California do not consider breed when making judgments against dog owners whose dogs have bitten someone. Instead, they consider the factors of the incident to determine whether a dog could be vicious.

What To Do After Suffering a Dog Bite Injury

What should a dog bite victim do after a dog attack? Follow these steps after being bitten by a dog:

  • Stay calm. You need to inform the owner that you’ve been bitten and avoid being bitten again. If you’re agitated, the dog may become more aggressive and attack again.
  • Get information about the owner and the dog. Get the owner’s name, address, phone number, and insurance information, as well as the dog’s name and a description.
  • Get medical attention. There is a high risk of infection from dog bites. If you need to file an insurance claim or sue for your injuries, you need documentation from a clinic, hospital, or doctor’s office as evidence for your claim.
  • Report the dog attack to animal control. This might be the first time this dog has ever attacked someone, but no one can know whether there might be another incident. If it isn’t the first time this dog has bitten someone, animal control will need to take further action against the owner.
  • Gather evidence of the incident. Take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the attack, and collect any medical reports of your injuries. Documenting a dog bite incident appropriately can help your injury claim.

Determining Liability for Dog Bite Injuries

California is a “strict liability” state for dog bite injuries. In other words, whether the owner was negligent or at fault, they are responsible for injuries caused by their dog. This includes instances when:

  • The dog owner took appropriate precautions against their dog biting someone
  • The dog has bitten someone in the past
  • The owner knew their dog might be aggressive

Whether or not the owner knew the dog had previously bitten or been aggressive toward a person holds no bearing on whether they are liable. Owners become responsible for their dog’s actions as soon as they take ownership of the dog in California.

However, there are some exceptions for liability in California, including:

  • If the person bitten was trespassing or committing a crime on the owner’s property
  • If the person bitten provoked an aggressive response from the dog
  • If the person bitten was performing a job or paid service on the property
  • If the person was bitten by their employer’s dog while working (workers’ comp claim)

A dog that has bitten someone before could be a “potentially dangerous dog,” while a dog that has severely injured or killed a person before could be a “vicious dog.” If injured by a dog with one of these designations, the owner could be subject to criminal charges.

Contact a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer in Orange County

Documenting a dog bite incident appropriately is essential for your claim with an insurer or in court. For experienced help with a dog bite case in Southern California, call Khalil Law Group at (714) 617-7870 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our office in Newport Beach, CA.

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