No one is ever prepared for a vicious dog attack, but nearly five million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year. Even if you are a devoted dog lover, a dog could potentially become aggressive and bite you, even if unprovoked.

Statistically, most people are bitten by dogs owned by people they know – including family members, friends, and neighbors. A dog bite can be quite serious, often requiring stitches, professional medical treatment, and follow-up care. The possibility of tetanus, rabies, and infection is also something to be concerned about when someone is bitten. In worst-case scenarios, adults or children have been traumatically mauled and even killed by dogs.

At OnderLaw, our personal injury attorneys have helped many dog bite victims seek the compensation they need for the pain, medical care, and the lasting scars that often come with a dog bite – scars that could be both physical and emotional.

How Dog Bites Happen

Any dog has the potential to bite when they feel scared, threatened, or are otherwise aggressive. Dog bites frequently occur when owners fail to train or adequately restrain their pets. Under California law, owners are responsible for supervising and taking precautions to ensure that their dog does not harm someone. This includes:

  • Keeping the dog on a leash
  • Using a muzzle
  • Keeping the dog in a fenced yard

Failure to obey leash laws and other failures to supervise could make the owner liable if their dog bites someone.

Common Injuries

A wide range of injuries is possible with a dog bite, from mild to very serious. A superficial abrasion can be treated by simply cleaning the wound and applying an antibiotic ointment. A laceration or a puncture wound, though, has greater potential to be serious and is more likely to become infected – and professional medical attention should be sought.

A person who is bitten by a dog might suffer an injury to their hand, or if they are particularly close to the dog they may suffer head and neck injuries, facial injuries, eye injuries, and even broken bones in some cases. A dog bite can be inflicted with a ripping or tearing motion, so there can be significant damage to soft tissue or even to muscles and tendons in some instances.

There are things you can do immediately after a dog bite to reduce the risk of infection. Unless it is a dire emergency, take the following steps to care for your wound before making the trip to the doctor’s office or the emergency room:

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lukewarm water. Rinse the wound with water for approximately five to ten minutes
  • If there is continued bleeding, put pressure on the wound with a clean cloth
  • Apply antibiotic cream or ointment to the wound once it is dry
  • Cover the wound with a sterile bandage

Even after you have visited a doctor, you should be watchful for signs of infection. These indicators may be redness or swelling around the wound, increasing pain, or even a fever.

A serious dog bite injury could lead to significant scarring, which may require cosmetic surgery or – in worst-case scenarios – might result in permanent disfigurement. You should also be sure to find out if the dog that attacked you had its shots. You should also be sure you are up to date on your tetanus shot to ensure you are protected.

Both rabies and tetanus are deadly diseases, and other types of infections are also possible, especially if your wound is not properly treated. If you don’t seek legal guidance in a situation like this, you might not be able to afford the costly medical treatment that you will need.

California Dog Laws and Regulations

If you were bitten by a dog in California, you should know that this state has very strict laws regarding dog bites that benefit victims. Even if a dog owner had no previous knowledge that their dog was potentially dangerous, you can still seek compensation. If you were bitten by a police dog or a military dog, you can sue provided you were not involved in unlawful activity at the time of the bite.

The state of California is also very lenient about what constitutes a dog “bite.” If a dog bites you without breaking the skin, for example, you can still seek compensation. Or, if another injury occurs to you while a dog is attempting to bite or attack you, you may also be able to receive compensation. In the case of Johnson v. McMahan, the owner of a dog was held liable for the injuries of a worker who fell from a ladder when a dog grabbed his pants with its jaw. The bottom line is that dog owners must use reasonable care by keeping their dogs on leash or confined to a fenced-in yard.

There are exceptions to an injured individual’s ability to seek compensation. For instance, if a child is knocked off a bike by a dog who does not bite, but the child is injured in the fall, the parents cannot seek compensation under the dog bite laws. However, if the dog owner has been negligent in their responsibilities in handling their dog, there are other personal injury claims you could discuss with your OnderLaw team.

Defining “Dangerous” Dogs

In California, a dog is considered to be “potentially dangerous” if it has bitten without provocation, injured or killed a companion animal without provocation twice in the previous three years, or exhibited unprovoked aggressive behavior against a human being in separate instances at least twice during the last three years.

To be considered “vicious,” a dog would have seriously injured or killed someone without provocation, or a dog already deemed potentially dangerous exhibited the same behavior due to the owner’s failure to follow legal requirements for containing a dangerous dog.

In some cases, a dog owner could face criminal charges. This might happen when a known dangerous dog is left to roam and injures someone. If a person is killed, the owner could be charged with a felony; and in some cases, a serious injury can also result in a felony under these circumstances. In addition to criminal charges, an injured party could also make a claim for personal injury if they file within two years.


It’s only right that you should be compensated if you suffer a dog bite or dog-related injury. Your compensation should cover a wide range of costs, including:

  • Physician visit
  • Medical care
  • Medications
  • Medical follow up
  • Pain suffered
  • Psychological trauma suffered, and any necessary counseling

Many people are hesitant to take their case to an attorney, especially if the dog is owned by a loved one, friend, or neighbor. But it is important to keep in mind that homeowners’ insurance policies often cover dog bites. And no matter what, it isn’t fair for you to take on the financial burden imposed on you when someone else has caused your injury through negligence.

Statute of Limitations

All lawsuits must be filed within a specific timeframe, and the dates are important to adhere to. Dog bite cases are no exception. If you wait too long, you won’t have a case. In California, you must file a civil lawsuit within two years of your injury – otherwise, it’s too late.

Why Contact OnderLaw?

Our entire team has vast knowledge of dog bite claims along with other personal injury cases. We handle your case with respect, understanding, diligence, and hard work. We welcome your questions and comments, and we hope to be able to help you if you have been injured.

With decades of combined experience representing clients nationwide, we have the skills you need to assess the merits of the case and to go to trial when necessary. We are proud to serve you, and we take great care in getting to know you on an individual basis because we recognize that not all people or all cases are the same.

Please get in touch with the attorneys at OnderLaw today for a FREE consultation. Call today so that we can help you move on with your life after an injury. You have absolutely nothing to lose.

Call OnderLaw today – we’re ready to help you.