Injuries resulting from dog attacks can range from a simple contusion to facial reconstructive surgery and even death. Owners of dogs with a documented propensity for violence and attacks can be held liable to victims of their pets and the animal is usually euthanized. However, animal attacks are often unprovoked and unexpected as certain breeds have a tendency to attack at a moment’s notice. An owner of a dog that has never bitten anyone in the past may still be held liable for a dog attack even if he had no prior knowledge of the animal’s violent nature. Personal injury claims regarding dog attacks are on the rise as more California residents choose to house dangerous pit bulls and other notoriously violent breeds in a domestic setting.
In one recent case out of Modesto, California, a woman was attacked by a pit bull while attending a party at the dog owner’s home. The dog was seemingly playful and not apparently agitated. However, something alarmed the animal and it lunged at the victim nearly ripping her entire nose off her face. She has since endured two reconstructive surgeries to correct her injuries which the victim describes as similar to having “gone through a windshield.”
Unlike many states, California does not require a known propensity for violent behavior in the animal in order to be liable for its bites and attacks. Specifically, the California Code allows for recovery by any victim attacked by a dog in a public place or while lawfully in a private place regardless of the former viciousness of the dog. Personal injury laws are in place in order to help victims of dog attacks and dog bites and to ensure that any person attacked by an animal is not left to pay for his injuries on his own.
Animal attacks are a serious, widespread phenomenon affecting more people than one might think. In the Sacramento area alone, 165 incidents of dog attacks and bites were reported in 2010 to the City’s Animal Control bureau. On a national level, the Center for Disease Control reports that 4.5 million people were treated for dog bites in 2010 and of those people 850,000 required significant medical attention as a result of the attack. The average cost of treatment for a person hospitalized for a dog attack is a staggering $18,200 and dog bites account for the fifth leading cause of emergency room visits. Nationally, of the thirty-four fatalities attributed to dog attacks in 2009, nearly one quarter of those took place in California.
These staggering dog attack statistics coupled with the tough stance taken by the California legislature place dog attack victims in a good position to seek restitution and damages for any injuries sustained as a result of the animal’s ferocity. It is reassuring that California personal injury law protects victims of vicious attacks and any person suffering from a severe dog bite has legal recourse. The only way to reverse the increasing trend of animal attacks is to continually hold owner’s financially responsibl. Hopefully Californians will soon see a reversal in the growing number of statewide vicious dog bites. Until then, victims can turn to the court system to receive the compensation they deserve.