Dogs are probably the most popular pets to have around. People adore them because of how loyal, loving, and protective they are. That protective nature can be a double-edged sword because it can sometimes lead to a dog bite accident.
Whether you're the owner of the dog who bit someone or the person who was bitten, you need to know how to act after an incident. We'll discuss these matters in this article. You can also learn more about the dog bite laws the state of California has in place by reading on.
What Qualifies as a Dog Bite?
California has a clear definition of what qualifies as an animal bite in the state. According to California law, a bite occurs when the skin is broken or punctured by the animal.
Knowing what constitutes an actual dog bite is important because it can guide your decisions moving forward.
Someone may press charges after claiming your dog bit them. Upon closer inspection, though, you may find that there’s no wound of any kind. That person may simply be trying to take advantage of you.
On the flipside, if you subsequently suffered an injury, you now know what to do as well.
You can protect yourself better by knowing about California’s dog bite laws, so try to commit them to memory.
When Pet Owners Become Liable for the Actions of Their Dogs
Are you automatically in trouble if your dog bites someone? No, your dog biting someone doesn't immediately mean that you will be on the hook for some medical bills.
Let’s talk more about when you become liable for your dog biting someone in this part of the article.
Your Responsibility if Your Dog Bites Someone in a Public Place
Many pet owners enjoy taking their dogs to public areas such as parks, and they sometimes even go to the mall with them. There’s nothing wrong with taking your dog to a public place as long as you abide by leash laws but know that you are taking on some level of risk.
If your dog bites someone in a public place, you will be held responsible for what happened. Keep a close eye on your dog to prevent an unfortunate incident such as that.
Your Responsibility if Your Dog Bites Someone on Your Property
It’s easy to understand why you’re held accountable for your dog biting someone in a public place. But what if the incident takes place on your private property? Can you still be held liable in that scenario?
Whether or not you can be held responsible for your dog biting someone on your property depends on why that person was there in the first place. If the person your dog bit was on your property lawfully, then you will be held responsible.
According to the state of California, a person can lawfully be on your property if they were there because of their job. Perhaps they were delivering some mail, or you hired them to fix something inside your home.
A person can lawfully be on your property if you invited them, such as a friend to hang out.
Things are different if the person who your dog bit was a trespasser. In a scenario such as that, you may not be responsible for what happened because you didn't authorize the person to be on your property.
The Element of Provocation
Another factor that will help determine if you can be held responsible for your dog biting someone is the element of provocation.Let’s say that the friend you invited over was provoking your dog. Your guest may have been antagonizing your dog, and in response, your pet bit them.
What happens then?
There's a chance you may not be liable for what happened. If you can show that your guest was teasing or provoking your dog, you may avoid facing penalties.
How Strict Liability Comes into Play
The principle of strict liability applies in California dog bite cases. What that means is that you will be held responsible for your dog biting someone regardless of your pet’s history. The fact that your dog never bit anyone before will not absolve you of responsibility.
It also doesn’t matter if you didn’t know that your dog had a prior case of biting someone. You will still be the one accountable for the incident that took place.
What You Need to Do if Your Dog Bites Someone
Pet dogs can be remarkably obedient and well-behaved, but they are not immune from following their animal instincts, especially if they feel threatened. They may also become more vicious if they think you’re in trouble.
If your dog has already bitten someone, what should you do next? Let’s talk about some of the important steps you need to take.
Move Your Dog to a Crate or A Different Room
It’s hard to predict how your pet will behave after he/she bites someone. The most important thing for you to do at that point is to separate the victim and your pet. Don’t put the victim at risk again.
Take your dog to another room or place him/her inside a crate if you have one. Keep your pet in there while you sort through what happened.
Seek Medical Attention
Get on your phone next and call for help. The bite may have caused a serious injury so getting medical attention for the victim right away is essential.
Some bacteria may get into the victim’s body following the dog bite. They need to be seen by a doctor right away to prevent things from getting any worse.
Exchange Contact Information with the Victim
You and the victim will likely need to have further discussions following the incident. After things have calmed down a little, you can ask for the person’s contact information if you don’t have it yet.
Do Not Take Responsibility for What Happened
The importance of not admitting fault in this scenario cannot be stressed enough. Yes, your dog bit someone, but that doesn’t mean that you’re automatically responsible for what happened.
Remember that provocation is a potential factor here. The victim may have been aggressively teasing your pet before being bit. That may be enough to show that the victim is at fault.
You can still help the victim but claim responsibility for the incident.
Collect Evidence and Witness Testimonies
Once the victim goes to the hospital, you can start collecting evidence. If you have security cameras at home, check them out and see if they recorded the incident. Preserve any footage because you can use that as evidence in a potential court case.
You should also talk to other guests if they were around when the victim was bitten. They may be able to tell you exactly what happened, and their accounts could absolve you from responsibility.
Contact Your Attorney
There’s no guarantee that the victim will attempt to press charges, but it’s a good idea to prepare, nonetheless. Contact your attorney and tell them what happened.
Listen to what your attorney tells you to avoid getting in trouble. Your attorney may also tell you what to do if local authorities drop by and talk to you about the incident.
What You Need to Do if You Are Bitten by Someone Else’s Dog
We’ve now outlined the steps you need to take if your dog bit someone, but what if it’s the other way around? What are the steps you need to take if you were the one bitten by another person’s dog?
Acting quickly is important in the aftermath of a dog bite. Follow the steps below to ensure your safety and to increase the chances that you are fairly compensated for what happened.
Request Medical Attention Immediately
The first thing you need to do after being bitten by someone else’s dog is to secure medical attention. Obviously, you will require medical attention if it’s a serious injury. However, you still shouldn’t hesitate to call for help even if the injury seems minor at first.
A dog bite can cause issues that do not emerge right away. You may think that you're fine, only to find out later that's something is wrong with the spot the dog bit.
Err on the side of caution and head over to the hospital to get checked out thoroughly. Doing so could save you from encountering more issues moving forward.
Get the Dog Owner’s Contact Information
After calling for help, the next thing you must do is obtain the dog owner’s contact information. This is especially important if you were in a public place, and the owner is a stranger.
If you forget to obtain the information, you may find it impossible to contact that person in the future. They are probably aware that they can be held responsible for what their dog did. They may try to avoid you as much as they can in the hopes that they won’t need to pay for anything.
Before leaving the scene, obtain the dog owner's information and make sure you can contact them when the time comes for that.
Gather Evidence and Witness Testimonies
One more thing you should try to do before leaving the scene is to collect evidence. Talk to the people who saw what happened and ask for their contact information.
Depending on the severity of your injury, the best you can do is take down the contact details of the witnesses. If you have a companion, though, you can ask them for help.
Also look for any cameras that may have captured what happened. Video footage can bolster your case when the time comes for you to seek compensation.
Your doctor may also give you evidence that you can use later. The medical report can show how severe your injuries are. It’s only fair that the person who failed to control their dog is the one who pays for the injuries you sustained.
Talk to Your Attorney
Assuming that you’ve already received treatment for your injury, you should now take some time to talk to your attorney. Talking to your attorney at this point is important because they can help you complete the crucial next steps.
Ask your attorney to contact the local county health officer and report the incident. The local county health officer can investigate the incident, and their findings may prove vital when you are ready to move forward with your plans to seek compensation.
Reporting to the local county health officer is also important because they can protect others in your community against the dog that bit you.
You should also take this opportunity to provide whatever evidence you need to your attorney. Your attorney can talk to the witnesses and ask them if they’re willing to provide statements.
It’s also a good idea to start making plans about how you’ll proceed with the case together with your attorney.
The state of California has a statute of limitations regarding how much time you have to file a claim after you’re injured by someone else’s dog. The statute of limitations is at two years from when the original incident happened, so try to get the case moving as soon as you're healthy again.
Knowing how to react to a dog bite is crucial. That holds true whether you're the owner of the dog or the person attacked. Hopefully, you'll never find yourself in either of those unfortunate scenarios, but the details above should prove helpful if one of them becomes a reality.
If something happens, remember that you can turn to us at the Saeedian Law Group for assistance. Get in touch with us right away, and we can help with your pressing legal issues.