California Is the #1 State for Dog Bites

November 1, 2018 Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bites can cause severe injury, infection, and even death. Every year, 4.5 million dog bites occur around the country,

Furious barking dogDog bites can cause severe injury, infection, and even death. Every year, 4.5 million dog bites occur around the country, and 1 in 5 of them need medical care.

California leads the nation in the number of dog bites reported each year, according to a recent survey by State Farm, based on its insurance claims. With 488 claims in 2017, we lead the nation, with almost 14% of the total dog bite injuries in the U.S.

Not only was California #1, it was number one by a wide margin. The state with the second most dog bites, Illinois, had just 318 claims versus California’s 488.

One-half of all dog bite injuries occur in children, who are particularly vulnerable. Many dog bite injuries are also sustained by senior citizens. Certain occupations, such as mail carriers, are also vulnerable.

What California Law Says About Dog Bites: Strict Liability

Dog bites can be injurious and even terrifying. Fortunately, California has strong laws against dog bites.

Our state has a law with strict liability. What that means is that people injured by a dog bite do not have to prove that owners were aware that their dogs had been violent before, that they were unaware that the dog could be dangerous, or that they were careful to prevent the possibility that the dog could attack. These things are sometimes necessary to prove negligence and receive compensation in a legal case. But in the case of a dog bite in California, they are not necessary for an injured party to prove.

It’s important to know, though, that in general this strict liability exists only if you were bitten.  A person chased by a dog who does not bite them, then, is generally not able to bring a case under the strict liability law.

If a dog injures someone and does not bite them, however, it may be possible to bring a case. Because it is not covered by the strict liability law, though, the injured party would have to prove in court that the owner failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent the dog from attacking someone.

Strict liability law also requires that the injured person be in a public place or in a private place legally. So a person injured by a dog bite who was illegally in someone’s home would not necessarily be protected under the strict liability dog bite law.

People who are carrying out a public duty under the law, like mail carriers, are considered lawfully on private property.

Need a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer in L.A.?

Dog bites are, unfortunately, frequent in the Los Angeles area. Fortunately, the law gives recourse.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite in southern California, please call experienced Los Angeles dog bite injury lawyer Sean Salamati today. Our seasoned professionals will review your case for free, without any obligation on your part. There is no charge to you for an initial consultation, and we charge no fees unless we win your case.

Additional Resources:

  1. Clark, Lucas and Abbie Bennett. “California is the No. 1 state for dog-bite injuries, State Farm says.” The Tribune. May 11, 2018. https://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/state/california/article210823979.html
  2. “When your dog bites.” State Farm. https://www.statefarm.com/simple-insights/family/when-your-dog-bites
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Hand Surgery After A Dog Bite

January 22, 2018 Dog Bite Injuries

An estimated 4.7 million Americans are bit by dogs each year. This figure includes roughly 600,000 children. Senior citizens and

Furious barking dogAn estimated 4.7 million Americans are bit by dogs each year. This figure includes roughly 600,000 children. Senior citizens and mail carriers are the second and third most-common victims of dog attacks. Some of these bites are nips from the family dog, but more vicious attacks occur when dogs break out of an enclosure or dart off a leash, which causes injuries so severe they require surgery to repair. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons performs 33,000 of these surgeries a year – most routinely to the hands fending off the attack.

Hospitalization and hand surgery after a dog bite

Every day, there are 866 Emergency Department visits and 26 hospitalizations related to dog bites in the United States.

While only about 1% of dog bite injuries in the United States require hospitalization, the cost of that hospital stay costs the average patient $18,200.

Reasons for hospital stays and surgeries include:

  • Skin and tissue infections (43.2%)
  • Open extremity wounds (22.1%)
  • Open head, neck, trunk wounds (10.5%)
  • Upper limb fractures (5.3%)
  • Connective tissue disease (2.1%)
  • Infective arthritis and osteomyelitis (1.1%)
  • Septicemia (1.1%)
  • Crushing injury or internal injury (1.1%)
  • Lower limb fracture (1.1%)
  • Other (1.1%)

Common dog bite-related surgical procedures include:

  • Wound debridement
  • Suture of skin and tissues
  • Tendon and muscle therapies
  • Skin grafts
  • Fracture or dislocation procedures
  • Joint repairs
  • Nose, mouth, and pharynx repairs
  • Eye surgeries
  • Traction, splints, and other wound care

Dog bites to the hand

Most dog bites to the hand occur when owners are trying to separate two dogs that are fighting. One study from Sweden found that 75 of 81 hand dog bite victims were treated at the Department of Hand Surgery. Of the 75, 51 patients were operated on, and 31 patients required a hospital stay at some point within six months. Injuries included lacerations of skin, muscle, and tendon, as well as hard fractures, arterial and nerve injuries, and traumatic finger amputations. Infections, necrosis, arthritis, osteomyelitis (bone infections), and sepsis were some of the serious complications. In the worst case scenario, dog bite injuries can be associated with Capnocytophaga canimorsus, an aggressive organism that leads to sepsis and death, particularly in immunocompromised individuals.

What to do if you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog

California’s strict liability laws under Section 3342 of the Civil Code assigns a legal duty for dog owners to keep their canines under control at all times, whether they have a past history of aggressive behavior or not.

If bitten, request proof of rabies vaccination from the dog owner. Take down the owner’s name and contact information from his or her driver’s license, and contact the dog’s veterinarian to verify vaccination records. Immediately contact a doctor to ensure proper wound treatment. If the wound does not stop bleeding when pressure is applied, go to the Emergency Room at once. After the wounds have been properly treated, consider issues of liability to help you cover escalating medical expenses and make sure the same attack doesn’t happen to another person.

Contact Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati for free legal assistance within 2 years of sustaining a serious dog bite injury. You only pay a legal fee if we win your case. In one successful resolution, a disfigured boy received $300,000 for his injuries. We cannot guarantee a particular dollar amount for your case, but we know a fair settlement offer when we see one.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

  1. American Society of Plastic Surgery – Hand Surgeons Provide Update on Wild Animal Bites, https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/press-releases/hand-surgeons-provide-update-on-wild-animal-bites
  2. Dean Smith MD – Animal and Human Bites, http://www.deansmithmd.com/Animal-and-Human-Bites
  3. Healthcare Cost & Utilization Project – Stat Briefs, https://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb101.pdf
  4. Research Gate – Dog Bite Injuries to the Hand, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51061952_Dog_bite_injuries_to_the_hand
  5. NCBI – Mammalian Bite Injuries To The Hand And Their Management, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110393/
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What To Do If You’re Bitten By a Dog

May 25, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bites can happen in an instant but leave lasting injuries, medical bills, and even a post-traumatic fear of dogs.

Dog bites can happen in an instant but leave lasting injuries, medical bills, and even a post-traumatic fear of dogs. What you do immediately after a dog bite can help minimize the dangerous long-term effects. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it is crucial to take care of the wound, obtain vital information about the dog, and always put safety first.

Reduce risk after a dog bite

Furious barking dogAccording to doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, infection is the biggest threat that follows a dog bite. A dog bite infection could require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics, so put safety first – follow these steps to reduce the chances of infection.

  1. Wash the bite carefully and thoroughly. Use soap and water but avoid alcohol because it can slow healing. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic; about half of all dog bites introduce bacteria into the wound so the threat of infection is great.
  2. Unless the wound is large enough to cause serious blood loss, do not try to stop the bleeding – it can help flush bacteria out. Do wrap a sterile bandage to keep the area clean though, and change it often.
  3. If you do not know the dog, pay attention to anything that can identify it but do not try to hold it or stop it from leaving. Fighting a violent dog puts you at risk for further injury. Instead, call animal control to look for the animal and also call 911 because you many need to start rabies vaccinations.
  4. If you do know the dog’s owner, try to obtain proof of the rabies vaccination. Follow up with the dog’s veterinarian to confirm that the shots are up to date.
  5. When dog bites do get infected, the infection tends to be severe. See your doctor within eight hours of the bite, when the chances of preventing an infection are greatest. Be extra careful not to delay if you have diabetes or a compromised immune system.

Dog bite liability in Los Angeles

Anyone whose dog bites a person in or around Los Angeles is subject to the dog bite laws written in the California Civil Code. The old adage “every dog gets the first bite free” does not apply in California – according to the Code, the owner of a dog that bites someone is liable for damages even if the dog did not have a history of viciousness or the owner did not know of its prior viciousness.

Under the Code, once a dog has bitten someone, its owner must take reasonable steps to protect others from the same danger. After two bites by the same dog on separate occasions, any person can bring an action to have a court determine the steps needed to prevent further injury to humans.

Dog bite lawyer in Los Angeles

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a dog attack, choose a personal injury lawyer who is ready to fight for your rights. For a free consultation with Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati, call today!

Additional Dog Bite Resources:

  1. Cleveland Clinic, If a Dog Bites You, Do These 7 Things Now, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/10/if-a-dog-bites-you-do-these-7-things-now/
  2. County of Los Angeles Public Health, California Civil Code, http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/vet/procs/civildog.htm
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Child Victims of Dog Bites

March 16, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Playing with a dog who suddenly bites is one of the most common causes of child ER visits. Often, the

Furious barking dogPlaying with a dog who suddenly bites is one of the most common causes of child ER visits. Often, the dog is the family pet or a next-door neighbor’s animal. The small stature and strength of children place them at greater risk of sustaining serious injury from a canine’s teeth. As a parent, you feel frightened, helpless, and probably angry about what has happened. Knowing your legal rights and possibilities is an important step toward closure following a child’s dog bite injury.

Dog bite statistics

According to the CDC:

  • Approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with nearly half of the victims children.
  • For children, the odds of being bitten are 1 in 3.
  • Dog bites cause 44,000 facial injuries in the U.S. each year, accounting for 1.5% of all ER visits.
  • Dogs are most likely to bite children between the ages of 5-9.
  • Children under six are most likely to be admitted to the emergency room for their injuries.
  • Three quarters of dog bite injuries in children under 10 are on the face.
  • 77% of the bites came from a family member or a friend’s dog.
  • There are 15-20 dog bite fatalities each year.
  • 18% of dog bites become infected.

The Insurance Information Institute and State Farm report that:

  • Dog bite injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance claims in 2015.
  • Dog bites cost insurers over $570 million a year.
  • Though the number of dog bite claims decreased 7.2% in 2015, the average cost per claim increased 16%.
  • The average cost per claim was $37,214 – up 94% from 2003 due to increased medical costs and jury awards.
  • California leads the nation in dog bite claims with 1,684 per year.

Child dog bite injuries

The most severe dog bite injuries involve the head, neck and face, which may require surgical repair of underlying structures such as nerves, muscles, and bone. Management of skin healing and scar prevention can be necessary for months following the incident. Furthermore, dog bites can make children seriously ill if the animal infects them with rabies, capnocytophaga spp, pasteurella, MRSA, and/or tetanus.

After the physical wounds heal, many children are left with emotional damage that can last a lifetime. Dog bites can change the way children view dogs for the rest of their lives. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that 12 out of 22 children who suffered dog bites showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder two to nine months after the attack.

Who pays when a dog bites a child in California?

The median charge for a dog bite related ER visit is around $300, according to the California Health Department. However, that cost skyrockets to $3,600 for 24-hour observations, and $5,900 or more for hospitalizations. One-third of medical visits are covered by private insurance.

California dog bite statutes

California is a “strict liability” state, meaning that dog owners are held liable for injuries, regardless of the dog’s past behavior. Children under five cannot be regarded as negligent, even if they are “provoking” the animal due to their inability to understand cause-and-effect consequences. The amount awarded may be reduced based on the percentage of negligence ascribed to a child over five years of age who was antagonizing the dog prior to injury.

When to call a Los Angeles dog bite attorney

You have up to two years from the time of injury to contact a Los Angeles dog bite attorney. Many people are hesitant to file a lawsuit due to an existing relationship with a friend or family member. Most dog bite lawsuits are handled by homeowners’ insurance, rather than out-of-pocket. Often, insurers will automatically pay out up to $1,000 for a child victim’s medical bills. However, you will need to pursue a personal injury claim if the medical expenses were higher. You may be awarded up to $7,500 through California Small Claims Court or much more in California Superior Court.

Compensation for a child’s dog bite injuries may include:

  • Past, present and future medical bills
  • Lost income related to caregiving
  • Repair or replacement of personal property damaged in the attack
  • Compensation for permanent disability and disfigurement
  • Compensation for emotional distress

It is very unusual for dogs to be put down following a bite injury. However, the animal may be placed on local law enforcement lists of “potentially dangerous dogs.” To protect yourself, it is not recommended that you discuss your child’s injuries or medical treatments with anyone except an experienced personal injury attorney. The Salamati Firm has a proven track record of substantial recoveries for dog bite victims. We recently obtained $300,000 on behalf of a child who was permanently disfigured in a Los Angeles dog attack. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Additional child dog bite injury resources:

  1. CDC – Preventing Dog Bites https://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/
  2. For Kids’ Sake – The Safety Around Dogs Program http://www.safetyarounddogs.org/statistics.html
  3. Journal of Pediatrics – Posttraumatic stress disorder after dog bites in children. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14722529
  4. Insurance Information Institute – Dog Bite Liability http://www.iii.org/issue-update/dog-bite-liability
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Liability for Dog Bites in California

March 16, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Every state has its own set of dog bite laws. Some have adopted so-called “one-bite” statutes that gives pet owners

Every state has its own set of dog bite laws. Some have adopted so-called “one-bite” statutes that gives pet owners one shot at escaping legal responsibility in the event their dog bites or attacks someone. There are 14 “one bite” states, but California is not one of them. In California, dog owners are held strictly liable for any injuries or damages suffered by individuals who are bitten by their canines.

Strict liability is a legal term that means the defendant is held legally accountable for injuries or damages that occur, regardless of whether the defendant was negligent or had no intention of causing harm. In other words, California’s strict dog bite statutes make it much easier for victims to prove and win a dog bite lawsuit, because the dog’s owner cannot legally dispute who was to blame.

California – strict liability for dog bites

When California legislators passed Section 3342 of the Civil Code, they imposed a legal duty on all canine owners to control their pets in an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by dog attacks. Prior the enactment of Civil Code section 3342, hundreds of dog bite victims in the state went uncompensated for their physical harm and emotional suffering unless they were able to establish that the owner knew or should have known their dog had displayed a “dangerous propensity” to bite, or had a vicious nature.

Under the current dog bite statutes, all victims have to prove in order to secure money damages from a dog owner is that they were in a public place or lawfully in a private place when they were bitten.  Considering that in more than half of all dog bite cases, the canine belongs to family, friends or is otherwise familiar with the victim, California’s strict liability dog bite laws pave the way for speedy resolution of injury claims, without assignment of fault on the part of the dog owner.

California dog bite statutes allow up to two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner in cases where the victim was lawfully on private or public property. This statute can be invoked even in dog bites where the skin is not broken. For example, canine owners are still held strictly liable in cases where the victim is knocked down and traumatized, but no puncture wounds were sustained.

Who cannot sue after a dog bite?

People who illegally trespass on another’s property and are subsequently bitten by a dog are not able to sue for damages under California’s Civil Code. Another defense that can thwart a recovery is if the victim alarms, excites or provokes the dog into biting. In cases like these, the courts would find that the plaintiff contributed to the animal’s behavior, and this “contributory negligence” could bar a successful claim for compensation. However, this “provocation defense” does not apply in cases involving children under the age of 5, who sadly represent more than 50 percent of all victims.

Dog bite lawyer in Los Angeles

Unfortunately, young children are the most frequent victims of dog bites and attacks, often sustaining disfiguring injuries and lifelong psychological trauma. If you or someone you love were bitten by a canine, Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati can file a claim on your behalf to secure compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages.

For expert legal assistance with your dog bite lawsuit in Southern California, call today to set up a free case review with an experienced legal advocate you can count on, Sean Salamati.

Additional Dog Bite Liability Resources:

  1. Justia, California Dog Bite Statute (Civ. Code, § 3342) https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/400/463.html
  2. AnimalLawInfo, California Statutes – Dangerous Dog Provisions https://www.animallaw.info/statute/ca-dangerous-california-dangerous-dog-statutes#s3342
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Tips for Preventing Dog Bites and Injuries from Dog Bites

March 9, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Every year, more than 4.5 Americans are bitten by “man’s best friend.” It’s not just mail carriers who are at

Every year, more than 4.5 Americans are bitten by “man’s best friend.” It’s not just mail carriers who are at risk for dog bites and attacks — bicyclists, pedestrians and small children can suffer serious dog bite injuries, many of which require emergency medical care. In 2015, nearly 31,000 people had reconstructive surgery to address disfiguring wounds caused by dogs. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, $18,200 is the median cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay in the United States.

Recent national statistics show that children under the age of 9 are at highest risk for being bitten by a dog, and the majority of these attacks are totally unprovoked. Another surprising fact: in more than 50 percent of all cases, the offending canine is either familiar to the victim, or a family pet.

While some breeds like Rottweilers and pit bull terriers have been identified as more aggressive than others, any canine can bite or attack when feeling cornered or that his turf is threatened.  Dog bites are linked to less than 30 fatalities a year in the nation, but such trauma often leaves victims with lasting physical and emotional scars, triggering a lifelong fear of canines.

For this reason, it’s important to understand how to prevent dog attacks and dog bite injuries. Here are some useful safety tips offered by Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati.

Tips for preventing dog bites: teaching children to be safe

Toddlers and young children often run in jerky, halting patterns that may resemble a wild dog’s natural prey. Children and babies are especially vulnerable to life-threatening dog bite injuries on the head and neck. Adults can take precautions by ensuring their family pet is well-trained, and never leaving their small child alone with an unfamiliar dog.

Dog bite prevention in children starts with educating your little ones on the do’s and don’ts of being around dogs – both familiar and strange.

If approached by an unfamiliar dog:

  • Do not attempt to pet or touch the dog
  • If the dog is with its owner, ask permission to touch it, letting the animal sniff your hands first
  • If the dog lunges or comes too close, stand still like a tree — never run
  • Avoid screaming or making loud noises
  • Avoid making direct eye contact
  • If the dog pushes you down, curl up into a ball, protecting your neck and head

Children should also be instructed to never bother a dog that is eating, asleep or with its puppies, regardless if the canine is a beloved family pet.

Bringing a new dog home

Last year, family dogs were responsible for an astonishing 45 percent all dog bite-related fatalities.  If your family is looking to bring home a new pet, avoid adopting a rescue dog that has a previous history of aggression, particularly if you have children under the age of 9 in the house. Before bringing Fido home, ensure he is well socialized and has a mellow temperament. Spend time with the dog, allowing it to meet various family members prior to adoption or purchase.  Carefully monitor interactions for signs of fear, stress or apprehension. Most bites occur when dogs feel afraid. Positive-reinforcement training and avoidance of aggressive play can go a long way toward ensuring your pup doesn’t become a dangerous biter.

Injuries from dog bites: how to treat minor wounds

Around 20 percent of puncture wounds and crush injuries from dog bites become infected. The best way to prevent infection in minor dog bite wounds is by:

  • Immediately washing the wound with soap and water
  • Applying a broad-spectrum antibiotic ointment
  • Keeping the wound clean and covered with a bandage

If the injury site turns red, becomes painful, swollen or hot to the touch, seek immediate medical attention. Even if you know the dog has received a rabies vaccination, it’s always a good idea to see a healthcare provider following any type of puncture wound or dog bite.

Dog bite attorneys in Los Angeles

The veteran personal injury lawyers at Salamati Law have successfully handled dozens of dog bite cases throughout Southern California. To schedule a complimentary case review with our talented legal team, please call today.

Additional Dog Bite Prevention Resources:

  1. CDC, Preventing Dog Bites https://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/
  2. American Family Physician, Prevention and Treatment of Dog Bites http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0415/p1567.html
  3. DogsBite.org, Dog Bite Statistics http://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-quick-statistics.php
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