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Sacramento Dog Bite Trial Lawyers

For many of us, our pet dogs are like members of the family. We love them for their good nature, the companionship they offer, and in some cases, the protection they provide our families and property.

Because we are so close to our dogs, it’s easy to forget that they are animals, with their own set of non-verbal queues, behaviors, and even neuroses. When interactions sour between dogs and humans, serious injuries in the form of bites, scratches and other wounds can occur. In extreme cases, a person can die as a result of a dog attack.  Often, dog bite injuries are the result of a negligent owner.

This page was written to discuss Sacramento dog bite injuries as they pertain to personal injury law. If you’ve suffered a serious dog bite, consider scheduling a meeting with trial lawyer Lawrance Bohm.

Dog Bite Statistics

Nailing down the most recent dog bite statistics can be tricky. The US Centers for Disease Control last published statistics on the issue back in 2001. At the time, the health agency estimated the number of dog bites annually at 4.7 million. Of these, approximately 799,700 persons required medical care. Of an estimated 337,700 dog bites treated in emergency rooms, approximately 6,000 required hospitalization.

While it may be impossible to say for certain how many dog-related injuries happen annually today, it is estimated that 60 million households have a dog. That’s a lot of dogs, and a lot of potential for injury.

Types of Injuries Caused by Dogs

Dog bites don’t only have the potential to damage flesh, muscle and other tissue. As with any animal bite, there is the potential for the transmission of disease and infection. Chief among these concerns is rabies, which without treatment, leads to a horrific death. This is why it’s important to see a doctor immediately if you’ve suffered a serious dog bite. In addition to rabies, you could be exposed to tetanus, and other infections. Other potential injuries include:

  • Puncture Wounds
  • Lacerations
  • Torn ligaments or tendons
  • Broken appendages
  • Torn scalp
  • Infection
  • Permanent scarring

In some cases, a person will sustain injuries in an attempt to escape a charging dog. These types of injuries can also be very serious and should be discussed with a personal injury attorney.

What Does the Law Say About Dog Bites?

California’s Civil Code contains a specific dog bite law, Civil Code §3342(a), which states:

“The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public space or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

What About Attacks by Law Enforcement Dogs?

This is a question that overlaps with the topic of police misconduct and brutality. The California Civil code specifically protects law enforcement officers and government agencies from lawsuits stemming from dog bite injuries sustained by criminal suspects. However, this doesn’t mean that a person who is bitten by a police or military dog automatically doesn’t have a case. If, for instance, a person were walking past a police officer and service dog on a public sidewalk and the dog bit the person without provocation, that individual could potentially file a claim. Or, if a person were bitten due to a case of mistaken identity, that individual might have grounds to file a claim. If you have questions about this type of injury, contact our office for more information.

Dog Attacks in the News

One of the most notorious dog attacks ever to occur in California made headlines back in 2001. Sadly, it was also a wrongful death case. The incident involved two large-breed dogs known as Presa Canarios. The attack took place in an apartment building in San Francisco, where the dog’s owner, Marjorie Knoller lived with her husband Robert Knoll. One afternoon, as Knoller was attempting to walk her two dogs to the roof of the building, she encountered another resident in a hallway, Diane Whipple, who was returning home with an armful of groceries. The Los Angeles Times reported that one of the dogs, a 120-pound male named Bane, attacked Whipple, knocking her to the floor and bit her multiple times. The dog tore at her throat, and Whipple died from a loss of blood.

The dogs were alleged to have been part of a dog fighting ring, in which the animals were bred to protect illicit drug labs.  The dog’s owners, both of whom were attorneys, had ties to a white supremacist prison gang. They even adopted one of their prison clients, a 38-year-old inmate at California’s Pelican Bay Prison. Both faced criminal charges and were imprisoned. Knoller, is currently serving a 15-year-to-life sentence.

According to the Mercury News, Whipple’s partner Sharon Smith, successfully sued Knoller and Noel for $1.5 million in damages.

Dog Bite

Bad Dog, or Bad Owner?

At the end of the day, a dog is an animal with limited understanding of the human world. There are any number of reasons why a dog might bite a person. While it’s always a good idea to proceed with caution around an animal you don’t know, it’s also the owner’s responsibility to care for that animal in a safe manner. This means ensuring that the dog is properly secured on the owner’s property and not roaming the streets unrestrained. Furthermore, if the animal has a history of aggression toward other people, it might be necessary to muzzle the animal when it’s in public. In cases where a person owns a dog with dangerous propensities, it might not be enough that the dog was restrained in the event it bites another person. California Civil Jury Instructions §462 state:

“People who own, keep, or control animals with unusually dangerous natures or tendencies can be held responsible for the harm that their animals cause to others, no matter how carefully they guard or restrain their animals”

What is a Victim of a Dog Bite Entitled To?

While it’s impossible to predict how much a client will recover in a dog bite injury case, it is possible to discuss the different types of compensation a person might be entitled to. For example, a dog bite injury to the hand could have a lasting impact on a person’s work life. A serious injury to the hand or arm could affect a wide variety of careers ranging from data entry or construction, to neurosurgeon and even professional musicians. An injured person who successfully wins a case against a negligent dog owner could be entitled to recover the salary he or she would have made had there been no injury. Other compensation could include:

  • Pain and Suffering Damages
  • Attorney’s Fees
  • Medical Expenses
  • Punitive Damages

Contacting an Attorney

It should be stressed that this article wasn’t written to vilify dogs, or any particular breed for that matter. Dogs are an integral part of many of our lives and they bring us joy. But just as with anything else in our life that has some element of risk, people have a responsibility to make sure they’re not exposing others to unnecessary danger.

If you’ve been injured by a dog, chances are good it was because of an irresponsible or negligent owner. It could be worth your time to contact our office and find out if you are entitled to compensation.

If you have questions about any of the topics discussed on this page, or some other area of personal injury law, contact the Bohm Law Group to find out how we can help you.

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