An ABC affiliate in Bakersfield reported that a record-breaking settlement worth $2 million was reached in a dog bite case, which was the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California. The case revolves around an incident wherein a K-9 unit from the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in Bakersfield escaped from a patrol car in 2013 and bit 21-year old Erin Casey in a gas station parking lot. There was apparently a defect in the patrol car’s door which enabled the dog to escape, and according to the deputy, he was unable to get the German shepherd under control because it refused to obey his commands. The deputy needed to call for backup to get the dog off of Casey.
Dog bites can result in serious injury, and in some cases, death. If you have suffered injuries due to a dog bite in California, the attorneys at the law firm of Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie, Inc., can provide you with experienced counsel who may help you obtain compensation for your injuries.
Nationwide and California Dog Bite Statistics According to a report by the American Veterinary Medical Association cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people get bitten by dogs each year, of which 20 percent require medical attention and 27 thousand undergo reconstructive surgery. There were 31 dog bite-related deaths in 2013. 359,223 children between the ages of 1 to 14 were bitten by dogs between 2010 and 2012, and 66 percent of injuries to children 4 years and younger were to the head and neck. Additionally, children between 5 and 9 years old are at the highest risk for dog bites.
Over half of dog all dog-bite injuries in the U.S. occur at homes with dogs that are familiar, and having a dog in the household is associated with a higher likelihood of being bitten than not having a dog.
One LA Times article asked if California should be the dog bite capital of the U.S. because it has the highest number of claims in the country. The article stated that insurance companies in California received 1,919 dog bite claims in 2013, which is the highest of any state in the U.S. This is consistent with increasing trends nationwide, which was 5.5 percent higher from the year before. Additionally, California led in the number of lethal dog attacks in 2013 with 5 deaths out of 32 nationwide.
California Dog Bite Liability
Under California law, the owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by others who are bitten by his or her dog while in a public place or while lawfully present in a private property, including the dog owner’s property. This is a strict liability statute, which means that dog owners cannot dispute fault – they are automatically liable to the victim who was injured. In this case, the injured party may recover damages without having to prove negligence on the dog owner’s part. It imposes an absolute duty on dog owners to prevent their dogs from biting people so as to prevent them from becoming hazards to the community.
Additionally, those who have care, custody, or control of a dog may be held strictly liable in court even if they are not the dog’s owner if they knew or should have known that the dog had an unusually dangerous nature or tendency. Even if the person took reasonable steps and precautions to prevent a dog bite, he or she will be held liable for damages if they knew that the dog was prone to biting others.
Defenses to Dog Bite Liability
Defendants in dog bite cases may be able to raise two defenses to liability under California law. First, if the injured party was illegally trespassing in the dog owner’s private property, then the statute prevents them from recovering for damages. Additionally, if the dog was owned by the state and was engaged in military or police work, an individual who is bitten cannot bring a lawsuit if it was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act. The statute also prohibits suit from being filed for a dog bite if the dog was assisting an employee of a state law enforcement agency from apprehending a suspect, investigating a crime, executing a warrant, or defending a peace officer or another person.
Dog bites can result in significant injuries, and those who are injured would benefit from the counsel of an experienced advocate who can assist with analyzing the facts, conducting an investigation, and pursuing a claim in court. If you sustained dog bite related injuries in California, our seasoned attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie, Inc. may be able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free initial consultation by calling our toll-free number at (888) 752-7474 or by completing our online contact form. Having a competent attorney by your side at the outset of your case will be helpful in achieving a positive outcome in your dog bite case, so contact us today.