Dog Bites

Unleashing the Truth About Dog Bite Liability

Dog bites can happen when least expected, turning a routine encounter with a seemingly friendly canine into a traumatic experience. These incidents can result in painful injuries, emotional distress, and mounting medical bills. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a dog bite, it’s crucial to understand your rights and the legal recourse available to you. In this comprehensive guide, explore into the intricacies of dog bite cases, from the physical and emotional toll they can take on victims to the legal responsibilities of dog owners.

How common are dog bites?

It’s important to keep in mind that while dog bites are relatively common, they can vary in severity, from minor abrasions or bruising to more serious injuries requiring medical treatment. Preventive measures, responsible dog ownership, and education about safe interactions with dogs are essential in reducing the occurrence of dog bites. 

  • National Dog Bite Statistics
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States each year.

  • Severity of Dog Bites
    Roughly 20% of dog bites require medical attention, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

  • Hospitalizations
    The CDC reports that around 800,000 people seek medical attention for dog bites annually, with roughly 386,000 of these cases resulting in emergency department visits.

  • Children and Dog Bites
    • Children are more likely to be bitten by dogs, with about 50% of dog bite victims being children, according to the AVMA.
    • The CDC states that children aged 5 to 9 are at the highest risk of dog bite-related injuries.

  • Fatal Dog Attacks
    While fatal dog attacks are rare, they do occur. Approximately 30 to 40 fatal dog attacks are reported in the United States each year, with pit bulls and Rottweilers accounting for a significant portion of these cases, according to various sources.

  • Dog Breeds and Bites
    Different dog breeds have varying propensities for biting. The AVMA notes that breed-specific legislation aimed at restricting or banning certain breeds is sometimes enacted in response to dog bite incidents.

  • Cost of Dog Bite Claims
    The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that dog bite claims accounted for over $800 million in insurance payouts in a single year (2020) in the United States.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bites can result in a wide range of injuries, depending on factors such as the dog’s size and temperament, the force of the bite, and the location of the bite on the victim’s body. Common injuries that can arise from a dog bite include:

  • Puncture Wounds: Dog bites often result in puncture wounds, where the dog’s teeth pierce the skin and underlying tissues. Puncture wounds can vary in depth and severity.
  • Lacerations: Some dog bites cause deep cuts or lacerations, which may require sutures (stitches) to close the wound properly.
  • Tissue Damage: Dog bites can damage muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the affected area, leading to functional impairment.
  • Infections: Because dogs’ mouths contain bacteria, dog bites can introduce harmful pathogens into the wound, increasing the risk of infection. Common infections include cellulitis and abscesses.
  • Nerve Damage: Severe dog bites may injure nerves, resulting in numbness, weakness, or loss of sensation in the affected area.
  • Fractures: In some cases, dog bites can lead to bone fractures, especially if the bite force is strong or if the victim tries to defend themselves.
  • Scarring and Disfigurement: Even after wounds heal, dog bites can leave behind scars and disfigurement, particularly if the injury occurred on the face or another visible area.
  • Psychological Trauma: Dog bites can cause significant psychological trauma, leading to fear and anxiety, particularly in children who are more susceptible to long-term emotional effects.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): In severe cases, victims of dog bites may develop PTSD, which can have a lasting impact on their mental health and well-being.
  • Secondary Complications: Untreated or improperly treated dog bites can lead to secondary complications such as infections spreading to other parts of the body (systemic infections), sepsis, or other medical issues.

It’s essential to seek prompt medical attention for a dog bite, even if the injury appears minor, to reduce the risk of infection and ensure proper wound care. In more severe cases, surgeries, reconstructive procedures, or rehabilitation may be necessary to address the injuries and their long-term effects.


What determines liability in a dog bite case in California?

In California, legal liability for dog bites is primarily governed by a statute known as the “Strict Liability Statute” (California Civil Code Section 3342). This statute establishes the legal causes of liability for dog bites in the state. Under California law, a dog owner can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog biting someone, regardless of the dog’s past behavior or the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies.

Here are the key elements that establish liability for dog bites in California:

  • Ownership: The person must be the owner of the dog or have some degree of control over the dog at the time of the incident.
  • Bite: The dog must have bitten the victim. It’s important to note that the statute specifically covers bites, not other forms of injuries caused by dogs.
  • Location: The bite must have occurred in a public place or while the victim was lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property. The victim must have had a legal right to be in the location where the bite occurred.
  • Injuries: The victim must have suffered injuries as a result of the dog bite. These injuries can range from minor to severe.

Importantly, California’s strict liability statute applies regardless of whether the dog has a history of aggressive behavior or whether the owner was aware of any prior incidents. This means that the dog owner is generally liable for damages resulting from a dog bite, even if the dog has never bitten anyone before.

There are some exceptions and defenses available to dog owners in California, such as provocation by the victim or the victim being a trespasser. However, these defenses may have specific legal requirements that must be met to be valid.


What costs, or damages, can I sue for with a dog bite?

In California, if you’ve been a victim of a dog bite, you may be eligible to sue for various types of damages. The specific damages you can seek in a dog bite case will depend on the circumstances of the incident and the extent of your injuries. Here are common types of damages that you can sue for in a dog bite case:

  • Medical Expenses – You can seek compensation for all medical expenses related to the dog bite, including emergency room visits, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, medication, rehabilitation, and any future medical costs for ongoing treatment.
  • Pain and Suffering – You may be entitled to damages for the physical pain and emotional suffering you experienced due to the dog bite. This can include both past and future pain and suffering.
  • Lost Wages – f the dog bite forced you to miss work or if it resulted in a reduction in your earning capacity, you can seek compensation for lost wages and future income potential.
  • Scarring and Disfigurement – Damages can be awarded for any permanent scarring or disfigurement resulting from the dog bite, especially if it affects your appearance and self-esteem.
  • Psychological and Emotional Distress – Dog bite victims often experience psychological trauma, including fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can seek compensation for these emotional damages.
  • Property Damage – If the dog damaged your personal property during the attack (e.g., tearing clothing or damaging personal belongings), you may be able to seek compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing those items.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life – If the dog bite has diminished your ability to enjoy life as you did before the incident, you can seek damages for this loss of quality of life.
  • Legal Costs and Attorney’s Fees – In some cases, you may be able to recover your legal expenses, including attorney’s fees, if you prevail in your dog bite lawsuit.
  • Punitive Damages – In particularly egregious cases where the dog owner’s conduct was willful, malicious, or grossly negligent, punitive damages may be awarded as a form of punishment and to deter similar behavior in the future.


To pursue these damages successfully, it’s essential to document your injuries, keep records of your medical treatment and expenses, and consult with the personal injury professionals at Harsh Law.


When it’s time to call, call Harsh Law.

Dog bites should not be taken lightly. If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, seek medical attention as needed, and, if necessary, contact the legal team at Harsh Law to address the situation, especially if the dog owner’s negligence was a factor in the bite.

Call Harsh Law at (909) 793-6261 today for your complimentary consultation.