Dogs are the most common pet in the United States, with more than 65 million households keeping a dog as a pet. And while most dogs are friendly companions who bring joy to our lives, some dogs can be incredibly dangerous.
At the Weinberg Law Offices, our dedicated team of California dog bite lawyers has been helping dog bite victims hold animal owners accountable since 1984. Over the past four decades, we’ve recovered more than $800 million on behalf of our clients and their families, helping them move on with their lives after experiencing the trauma of an animal attack.
How Common Are Dog Bites in California?
Dog bites are very common, both in California and across the United States. In fact, in a recent post, the American Veterinary Medical Association notes that more than four and a half million people are bitten by dogs each year. This averages out to more than 1,000 dog bites per day in the United States.
As one of the largest states in the country, it stands to reason that California would have a similarly high rate of dog attacks. The California Department of Public Health periodically releases a report called the Investigation, Management, and Prevention of Animal Bites in California.
In this report, the Department discusses some startling California dog bite statistics. For example, the most recent version of this report was published in 2014 and indicated that in 2011, people reported more than 50,000 dogs to animal control agencies across the state.
The vast majority of those dogs were domestic animals that people kept as pets. Pit bulls, German Shepherds, and Chihuahuas were responsible for approximately 55% of all dog bites.
According to the National Library of Medicine, more than 800,000 people seek medical care related to dog attacks each year in this country. This means approximately one in five people who are attacked by a dog require medical attention. Of course, some bites are much more serious than others.
What Are the Most Common Dog Bite Injuries?
Dogs possess remarkably strong jaws and incredibly sharp teeth. When a dog chooses to attack, it has the ability to inflict severe and irreversible harm with very little effort. Common injuries resulting from dog bites encompass the following:
- Fractured bones,
- Facial injuries,
- Puncture wounds,
- Emotional trauma, and
- Nerve damage.
These injuries can range from mild to severe.
Regardless of the severity of the wound, there is a significant risk of infection associated with dog bites. In fact, the CDC reports that approximately one in five dog bites lead to infection. Even with proper wound care, an infection can still develop.
The most prevalent infections following a dog bite include the following:
- MRSA, and
Identifying early signs of infection is not always straightforward. However, it is crucial to remain vigilant for the following symptoms and seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following:
- Blisters around the area of the bite;
- Muscle or joint pain,
- Redness, swelling, pus drainage, or pain at the bite wound;
- Stomach pain; and
Dog bite injuries can abruptly and drastically alter your life. However, by consulting a Waukegan dog bite lawyer, you can explore the possibility of pursuing financial compensation for your injuries.
Dog Bite Statistics by Breed: What Are the Most Dangerous Breeds?
Most dogs go their whole lives without ever attacking or biting a human to the point of causing injury. Of course, some breeds are more prone to attack than others.
And certain breeds are known to exhibit especially dangerous behavior when attacking. For example, Pitbull terriers tend to attack vital body parts, including victims’ heads, necks, and groins.
While any dog can attack, most California dog bites are inflicted by just a few breeds. In fact, just two breeds—Pitbull terriers and Rottweilers—are responsible for more than 75% of all fatal dog attacks in the United States.
But dog breed attack statistics indicate that the following breeds can also be dangerous:
- American bulldogs,
- Cane Corso,
- Chow chow,
- Doberman pinscher,
- Dogo Argentino,
- German shepherds,
- Gull Dong,
- Perro de presa canario, and
- Tosa Inu.
It can be helpful to know which breeds might require a bit more caution when approaching an unfamiliar dog.
What Can You Do to Prevent Dog Bites?
Encountering unfamiliar dogs is inevitable for most people. While most dogs—even unfamiliar ones—pose no immediate threat or are unlikely to approach you, it is always a good idea to be prepared. The following recommendations provide pedestrians with valuable insights to minimize the risk of dog attacks.
Remaining alert to your surroundings is of critical importance in avoiding dog attacks. Be mindful of dogs concealed under vehicles, shrubbery, or neighboring properties when walking. It is best to detect an unleashed dog before it becomes aware of your presence.
Assess the Situation
When confronted by an unfamiliar dog, you should do your best to remain composed and assess the situation. Take note of the dog’s state, whether awake, asleep, eating, or accompanied by puppies. Additionally, consider the dog’s size and overall behavior. Assessing the scene will help you make better decisions on how to proceed.
Don’t Show Your Fear
When approaching an aggressive dog, it is normal to experience fear. However, try to avoid showing visible signs of fear to the animal. Dogs possess the ability to perceive fear and may interpret it as an indication of vulnerability or aggression.
Avoid Startling Dogs
If you need to approach an unsuspecting dog, make soft and calm noises to alert the animal to your presence from a distance. However, should the dog take an interest in you, refrain from turning and running, as this may trigger the dog’s instinct to give chase.
Do Not Assume a Dog Is Friendly
Although most dogs exhibit friendly behavior, it is not a good idea to assume a dog will be friendly when encountering an unfamiliar animal.
Even dogs you have previously encountered and determined to be friendly may exhibit sudden aggression due to unforeseen circumstances or for no discernible reason. Therefore, it is essential to remain vigilant even with dogs you are familiar with.
Maintain Visual Contact with the Dog
Dogs typically target humans who are not facing them. To minimize the likelihood of an attack, you should continuously keep the dog within your line of sight without establishing direct eye contact.
Be Nice, But Not Too Nice
When a dog approaches in a non-threatening manner, taking a friendly approach by speaking in a soft tone is recommended. However, refrain from attempting to pet the dog or offering food.
Avoid Running Away Unless You Have To
Attempting to escape from an aggressive dog by running is one of the biggest mistakes dog bite victims make. This can trigger the dog’s chase and attack instincts. Instead, stand your ground if a dog approaches you. If available, grab a nearby object, such as a backpack, purse, or any other item, to create a barrier between yourself and the dog.
Carry Dog Repellent
For those who frequently come across unfamiliar dogs, it is a good idea to carry a canister of dog repellent. Dog repellents are aerosol sprays that contain extracts derived from cayenne peppers. These sprays are effective up to a distance of approximately 10 feet. Upon contact, the repellent will cause the dog to retreat with its tail between its legs. Dog repellent does not cause lasting harm to dogs, and its effects wear off after approximately 15 minutes.
California Dog Bite Law
Every state is responsible for creating its own dog bite laws. As a result, there are two main types of dog bite statutes on the books.
The first is referred to as a one-bite law. In states using a one-bite law, a dog owner is only liable for injuries caused by their pet if the owner had actual notice of their animal’s vicious tendencies or if they knew that their dog previously bit someone.
California, however, uses a very different approach. Under California’s strict liability dog bite law, an animal’s owner is liable for any injuries caused by their dog regardless of whether that dog was ever aggressive before.
However, to be strictly liable, the victim must have been in a public place or had permission to be on private property at the time of the bite.
For example, if a neighbor’s dog bit you while you both were walking your dogs on the sidewalk, your neighbor would be liable for your injuries. Additionally, if that same neighbor invited you over for dinner and their dog attacked you, your neighbor would also be liable.
However, if you were trespassing on your neighbor’s property and had no legal right to be there, they might not be liable.
Few Exceptions to the Rule
Unlike many other states, the California dog bite law does not contain very many exceptions. For example, many other states prevent a dog bite victim from recovering financial compensation from a dog owner if the animal’s owner can show that the victim provoked the dog.
California’s dog bite law contains no such language. The only exception to the strict liability framework is that the state or local government cannot be liable for bites inflicted by military or police dogs.
Even then, the exception does not apply to an innocent victim whose actions did not prompt the need for the police dog in the first place.
For example, if police suspect you of a crime and enlist the help of a K9 unit, and the K9 unit bites you as you are running away, you may not be able to sue. But if a police dog is chasing a suspected wrongdoer and the dog attacks you by mistake, you would not be precluded from filing a lawsuit against the police department.
Damages in a Dog Bite Lawsuit
Dog attacks and the resulting injuries can have a significant and far-reaching impact on your life. As the victim, you should not have to bear the burden of these economic and noneconomic costs alone. In California, victims can seek two types of damages: economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages encompass the financial losses you incur as a direct consequence of the bite. This includes medical expenses and any ongoing or future medical costs.
Economic damages also include the wages you lose if you cannot work due to injuries. It also includes any potential reduction in your future earning capacity resulting from the bite.
A California dog bite claim allows you to seek compensation for economic damages such as:
- Past medical expenses,
- Costs associated with follow-up medical treatment,
- Lost wages during the period of injury-induced work incapacity, and
- Diminished ability to earn income in the future.
These are all direct monetary losses that you can prove through invoices, receipts, and pay records.
The second category of damages in a dog bite case is noneconomic damages. Determining the value of noneconomic damages can be more challenging as they require a subjective assessment of the impact that the accident had on your life.
There won’t be any receipts or invoices to add up when evaluating these intangible losses. Nevertheless, noneconomic damages are crucial for achieving a full and fair recovery.
And noneconomic damages can be substantial in dog bite cases, often making up the majority of a victim’s damages award. Examples of common noneconomic damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of consortium, and
- Loss of society.
Noneconomic damages require a dog bite lawyer to present a compelling case to explain how the incident has fundamentally altered your life.
At the Weinberg Law Firm, our dog bite attorneys understand the emotional and physical hardships you and your family are facing.
We can help you identify the full extent of your losses and determine what constitutes a fair settlement for your case. Moreover, during negotiations with the insurance company, we will advocate on your behalf and pursue maximum compensation for your losses.
Have You Been the Victim of a Dog Bite?
The California dog bite statistics don’t lie, and dogs can be dangerous. If you, your child, or another person in your family was recently attacked by a dog, pursuing a California dog bite claim may provide you with meaningful compensation for all you’ve been through.
At the Weinberg Law Firm, we’ve successfully handled countless dog bite claims on behalf of our clients, often resolving cases through strategic negotiations.
However, as seasoned trial attorneys, we will be ready to take your case to trial in the event the insurance company is unwilling to extend a fair settlement offer. To schedule a free consultation today, call 877-943-6274. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.