Man’s best friend isn’t always so sweet and cuddly. Dogs, especially those owned by negligent owners, can be extremely dangerous. A dog bite can cause devastating injuries. A full-blown dog attack can be traumatic and even deadly. The staunchest animal lover understands that when a dog bites or attacks someone, the negligent pet owners must be held accountable.

The San Jose personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw understand how deeply disturbing and heartbreaking a dog bite or attack can be. You may have mixed emotions about contacting an attorney. The legal team at OnderLaw wants you to know that we will treat your case with compassion and respect. Dog bites can cause significant injuries and result in enormous medical bills. You deserve compensation for your injuries, and the law may be able to help you accomplish that goal.

If you or a family member are injured in a dog attack, reach out to the San Jose legal team at OnderLaw for support. We want to help you get the compensation you deserve and make sure that an incident like this doesn’t happen again. Reckless and negligent dog owners need to be held accountable for their animal’s actions.

For a free case review, call us today. Let’s talk about ways we may be able to help you get back on your feet again and get the money you are entitled to after a dog bite incident.

How Dog Bites Occur

Dog bites can happen for several reasons. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, most dog bites happen when the animal becomes stressed or startled. It is often a natural response when an animal feels threatened by something: it will lash out with a bite. This serves as a warning that they are in an uncomfortable situation and want you to back off. Dogs may also resort to biting if they are sick or feeling unwell. An injured animal is more likely to react out of pain and fear by biting.

Dogs can also resort to biting if they are territorial. They may feel territorial over their property, a favorite person, or even their food. Untrained dogs can sometimes bite when they are “food guarding.” Food guarding is when a dog feels protective over their food or water and lashes out to protect this vital resource. A food-guarding dog may be particularly risky when it’s around small children who may not understand that they need to leave the dog alone while it eats.

While rarer, there are instances of dogs being bred or encouraged to have aggressive traits. Sometimes these types of animals are used for illegal dog fighting or “home protection.” These types of animals can be supremely dangerous and are liable to not only bite but flat out attack unsuspecting individuals. These dogs are typically untrained, unsocialized, and may be abused or neglected. These conditions mean that these animals are particularly susceptible to causing devastating injuries to others.

Common Injuries in Dog Bite Incidents

Dogs can be powerful animals capable of inflicting terrible wounds and injuries. Some breeds are known for their powerful jaws and incredible bite strength. The average bite force of a dog is between 230 and 250 pounds per square inch, enough to cause significant damage. Some breeds can reach a bite force of close to 750 psi. However, bite force is only part of the equation. Significant tissue damage can also occur when the dog bites and then begins shaking its head, attempting to rip apart what it’s holding onto.

Depending on the nature of the attack, a dog bite can result in anything from a small puncture wound all the way up to traumatic and life-threatening blood loss and tissue damage. In general, these are the most common injuries that can result from a dog bite or attack:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Broken bones
  • Crushing injuries
  • Scrapes and cuts
  • Nerve damage
  • Head injuries
  • Facial injuries
  • Emotional trauma

Dog bites can end up causing significant physical scaring and even deformities. These injuries may require extensive medical intervention, such as surgeries and skin grafts. However, physical wounds are not the only cause for concern. Dog bites can also spread serious infections. Statistics indicate that anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of dog bite wounds will become infected. Some of the most common infections and diseases that can be spread by a dog bite include:

  • MRSA
  • Tetanus
  • Capnocytophaga
  • Pasteurella
  • Rabies

If possible, see if you can get information about the dog’s vaccination history. While rabies infections from dogs are exceedingly rare, the disease has a mortality rate of over 99% if left untreated. Other infections can also lead to serious medical complications.

Dog Laws in California

According to California law, a dog bite doesn’t necessarily even have to break the skin for it to be considered a “bite.” If a dog closes its jaw around a portion of a person, that person may have a case on their hands. That may also be true for individuals injured in accidents caused by a dog’s actions. If an aggressive dog chases a child on a bicycle and the dog bites the bike tire and causes an accident that injuries the child, the dog’s owner may be on the hook for those injuries because of their negligence or carelessness. This is negligence liability.

California also has laws on the books governing dangerous dogs. If a dog is viewed as a threat, animal control officers or law enforcement officials can file a petition for a hearing. At the initial hearing, the court will decide whether an animal should be deemed potentially dangerous by examining the available evidence. If the animal is a danger, it must be kept indoors or in a fenced yard that will keep the animal in and children out. The dog must also be always on a leash when out in public. If a dog is found to be a significant threat to public safety by the courts, animal control can destroy the dog, and the owners may be prohibited from getting another dog for up to three years.

The state of California defines a potentially dangerous dog under the following terms:

  • Individuals have been forced to defend themselves from a dog’s unprovoked actions or aggressive behavior in at least two separate incidents over the span of three years
  • The dog has bitten someone without provocation
  • The dog has either injured or killed a domestic animal without provocation twice in the span of three years

A dog can be considered vicious by the courts under the following terms:

  • The dog aggressively caused an injury or death while unprovoked
  • The courts have already deemed the dog potentially dangerous, and the dog repeated dangerous behaviors
  • The courts have already deemed the dog potentially dangerous, and the owners failed to meet their legal obligations

Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries

Compensating victims for a dog bite incident typically falls on the owner of the animal. California is a strict liability state, meaning pet owners are responsible when their animal injures another person. In a strict liability state, it does not matter if the owner knew their dog was dangerous or a potential threat to others. When it comes to the law, that means that an owner cannot use the defense that they “didn’t know their animal was a danger” to get out of the responsibility of paying for damages.

Strict liability laws do have some limitations, however. The owner of the dog can only be held responsible if a person is bitten or if a person was injured in a public place or a private place they had lawfully entered. A dog owner may have a defense in cases where a person is trespassing on their property, such as in a burglary scenario, and the dog bites the intruder.

Generally, compensating a victim of a dog bite injury will be the responsibility of the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance company. According to information compiled by the Insurance Information Institute, in 2020, dog bites and dog attacks ended up costing homeowner insurers around $854 million. The same research finds that California has the highest number of claims in the U.S. In 2020, California saw 2,103 dog bite claims. Understanding that the owner’s homeowner’s insurance may compensate a victim for their injuries is often reassuring because the majority of dog bite incidents happen between friends, family, neighbors, and children.

Statute of Limitations on Dog Bite Suits

California limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit if you have been bitten or attacked by a dog. The state only gives victims two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit in court. If an individual fails to file within the allotted amount of time, the case can be dismissed by the courts, and the victim will be left with little to no legal recourse for recovering compensation.

Two years may sound like a lot of time, but it can go by quickly, especially if an insurer is dragging its feet on settling a claim. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you review all your options and file claims or lawsuits within the appropriate amount of time.

Why Choose OnderLaw for a Dog Bite Injury?

When a dog snaps and bites or attacks, it can be a scary and emotionally charged event. This is especially the case when the animal is owned by a close friend, family member, or neighbor. However, dog bites can be serious and inflict a great deal of trauma on the body. This can result in significant medical costs that you, the victim, should not be responsible for paying.

While you may be hesitant about contacting a lawyer after a dog bite, it is the best option for trying to obtain a favorable outcome for your situation. An attorney can handle the details of your claim and work with the dog owner’s insurer to reach an agreement that gives you fair compensation for your injuries. Our compassionate team understands that this is a trying time for you and your family, but we guarantee that we will work hard to support you through the process. For more information on how an attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve, call us for a free consultation.

Contact an Experienced San Jose Dog Bite Attorney Today

If you or your child has been injured by a dog, talk to an experienced San Jose dog bite attorney today. At OnderLaw, we can help you understand your rights and what your options are for recovering valuable compensation.

Contact us today and let’s set up a free consultation to discuss your situation.