Dog Bite Injuries – An Overview
Dog bite attacks are a far more serious and widespread problem than most people realize. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.7 million people a year are injured by dog bites. Approximately 800,000 people a year seek medical care for dog bite injuries, and children are the most frequent victims.
Dog Bite Statistics
The scope and severity of the dog bite problem in the United States are best illustrated by a few dramatic statistics:
- There are currently 74.8 million dogs in the United States.
- Over 1,000 people a day seek emergency room treatment for dog bite attacks.
- The number of dog bites has risen dramatically over the past 20 years. There was a 36% increase in dog bites requiring medical attention from 1986 to 1994.
- Dog bite fatalities have increased. The average number of annual dog bite deaths in the 1990s was 17. In 2007, there were 33 and in 2008 there were 23.
- Children are the victims in 70% of the most serious dog bite injuries. Children are most likely to be bitten in the head, face and neck area.
- Dog bites are the second leading cause of childhood injury.
- Breeds responsible for approximately two thirds of dog bite attacks are Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepards, Huskys and Alaskan Malamamutes.
- More dog bite attacks occur in August than in any other month. Researchers believe that this is because both children and adults spend more time outdoors and at gatherings in August because of the longer daylight hours and warmer weather.
- Approximately 3,000 U.S. postal workers are bitten by dogs annually.
- The majority of dog bite attacks take place at home or in a familiar place.
- Insurance industry data indicates that dog bite cases account for one quarter to one third of all homeowner insurance liability claims.
Dog Bite Law – The Dog Owner’s Liability
If you have been the victim of a dog bite attack, your dog bite lawyer will likely seek to establish the dog owner’s liability for your dog bite injuries based on one or more of the following:
- Dog Bite Statutes: Most states have enacted strict liability dog bite laws. Under these statutes, the dog owner will generally be liable for dog bite injuries without regard as to whether the dog owner was careless or whether he knew his dog could be dangerous.
- Common Law: Under the common law rule, a dog owner may be held liable for dog bite injuries caused by his dog if the victim’s dog bite lawyer can prove that (a) the dog had dangerous propensities and (b) the dog owner knew (or had reason to know) that his dog could be dangerous.
- Negligence: Under a negligence theory, a dog owner may incur liability for a dog bite attack for carelessly failing to control his dog.
Dog bite laws vary by state. Depending on the state and the facts of your case, your California dog bite lawyer may pursue your claim against the owner based on other theories. These may include, for example, negligence per se and negligent entrustment. In certain instances, local city or county ordinances may also provide a basis for dog bite liability.
Defenses to a Dog Bite Liability Claim
A dog owner may seek to avoid liability for the dog bite victim’s injuries by raising one or more defenses to the victim’s claims. While the availability of any particular defense will depend upon the state and the basis for the claim, the most commonly raised defenses to an allegation of dog bite liability include:
- Assumption of risk: The victim knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of being bitten.
- Comparative or contributory negligence: The victim’s own negligence contributed to cause his injuries. Under comparative negligence, the plaintiff’s damages would be reduced based upon the degree to which the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to cause the injury. Under contributory negligence, which is still recognized in a few states, the victim’s negligence would serve as a complete bar to recovery.
- Provocation: The victim provoked the dog into biting him. Provocation is generally viewed as a as a subset of comparative or contributory negligence. It serves as an absolute bar to recovery under certain strict liability statutes.
- Trespassing: Over half of dog bite attacks occur on the dog owner’s property. In some instances, the dog owner can avoid liability if he can prove the victim did not have a legal right to be on his property and was therefore trespassing.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite attack, you may be entitled to compensation. A knowledgeable California dog bite lawyer will be able to advise you regarding the dog bite laws applicable to your case and your potential for monetary damages.