Dog Bite Litigation

The attorneys of Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell litigate many types of dog attack cases. While dog bites are the most common type of dog attack, a client does not need to be bitten to have a case. Being knocked down, pushed, or chased into a hazardous situation by a dog are instances that also qualify as dog attacks.

Although dogs usually are confined to their owner’s residence, they sometimes get loose or unleashed and wander the neighborhood. This can result in the loose dogs attacking smaller pets. Upon trying to rescue their smaller pets, the pets’ owners end up getting attacked as well.

As for the injuries involved, dog attack victims can lose a lot of blood, have permanent nerve damage, have wounds needing reconstructive surgery, or even be killed (as in the case of small children).

If a person is bitten by a dog in a public place, there is a strict liability on the dog owner according to California Civil Code §3342, the Dog Bite Statute. When a dog bites a person, regardless of any existing knowledge that it is vicious, the dog becomes a strict liability for its owner as long as the dog is in a public place or the victim is lawfully in a private place (no trespassing involved). In the context of a home on any given occasion, anyone: guests, family members, etc., can be attacked or bitten by a seemingly domesticated dog for no reason, and the statute will still apply.

Typically, the dogs in most cases include pit bulls, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and other large dogs. However, in the bigger cases I’ve handled, the defense usually hires an animal expert to emphasize that you cannot generalize a breed for viciousness.

In one case I handled, my client was walking on a public street as part of her daily routine and a dog attacked her. As a result, she fell on the asphalt and lost consciousness upon impact. My client was 89 years old at the time, and her injuries from the incident were not readily apparent. When our firm took the case on, we were not sure at first if the dog bit my client or not. We only discovered lacerations and puncture wounds that were possibly caused by dog bites after our firm took her case. We had her checked by a doctor who confirmed that the wounds were indeed dog bites.

The main issues with this particular case revolved around how badly the client was wounded, and if the injuries were indeed caused by the dog bites or the fall. The defense attorney tried to prove that my client fell because she was startled by the dog, a huge German Shepherd that the lawyer said was highly trained and knows self-control so it didn’t need to be on a leash. The dog’s owner also claimed that it was a quiet, calm, and obedient pet.

My client testified that the dog was barking and growling at her before it even started chasing her. We had to hire an expert with a Ph.D in animal behavior, Dr. Polsky, to evaluate the dog for its temperament and obedience, and to try to re-create the dog attack or dog bite incident. In the process, we managed to capture the dog’s growling and aggressive behavior on video. Dr. Polsky formed the opinion that the dog was, in fact, uncontrollable and aggressive, and based on his observation, the owner did not have full control of her dog.

Another potential case involving dog attacks is when a dog chases someone. There was a case of a cyclist that was chased by a pit bull near a sidewalk. The cyclist’s reaction was to get away from the dog as fast as possible. He cycled into a street, and was hit by a moving car. In this particular situation, the dog owner was held liable for the cyclist’s injuries.

The most difficult cases involve children or young adults. For instance, in cases where a teenager approaches a dog to try to touch it, the defense usually attempts to prove that the teenager provoked the dog to attack.

If you find yourself in a situation where you were attacked or bitten by a dog, you must first call the police and an ambulance, file a report, and create a record of the chronological facts of the attack. Once at the emergency room, have your wounds checked by a doctor to make certain they are not infected.

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