Do you remember the famous scene from The Pink Panther Strikes Back? Inspector Clouseau (portrayed by Peter Sellers) has just checked into a hotel and gotten his key from the desk clerk. As he starts walking away he comes upon a dog. Turning to the clerk, he asks: “Does your dog bite?” After the clerk says, “no,” Clouseau bends down to pet the dog – and gets bitten. He turns to the clerk and says: “I thought you said your dog does not bite.” To which the clerk responds: “That is not my dog.”
That scene is pure comedy and pure genius. But for many, being bitten by a dog it is no laughing matter. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs bite millions of people (4.5 million to be exact) in the United States each year. Of those, more than 800,000 seek medical attention for their injuries.
What’s more, according to State Farm, California led the U.S. in number of bites in 2017. The insurance company based the finding on the number of dog-related injury claims it processed that year (468 for more than $18.7 million).
Here’s what you need to know if you or a loved one has been by a dog while you were in L.A.
After you’ve been bitten
The first and most important thing to do once you are no longer in danger is to seek immediate medical attention. This is crucial for a couple of reasons. First, even minor bite wounds left untreated may become infected. Secondly, a qualified healthcare provider can ensure that proper precautions are taken against the potential transmission of rabies and other diseases.The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If a person does not promptly receive theappropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain and can ultimately result in death.
After you have seen the doctor, be sure to report the incident to your local animal control agency or law enforcement. While we understand that a lot of people would rather not – especially if the dog belongs to a friend or relative – it is important to do so if:
- You are unsure whether the dog has been vaccinated against rabies.
- The dog seems sick or its behavior seems odd.
If the owner was not there when you were bitten, try to contact him or her to verify if the dog is up to date on its rabies vaccines. Be sure to get the rabies vaccine license number, name of the veterinarian who administered the vaccine, along with the owner’s name, address, and phone number.
California’s dog bite law
You may also be wondering if you can sue the dog owner. The answer is… maybe. Section 3342 (a) of California’s Civil Code allows you to sue the owner of the dog that bit you – but only in certain circumstances. Specifically, it states that the owner is legally responsible if his or her dog bit you when:
- You were in a public place
- You were on the owner’s property and were invited to be there
- You were on any other private property and were invited to be there
- You were on private property to carry out duties in accordance with state law
- You were on private property while delivering mail or packages (in accordance with U.S. postal regulations)
In this context, you should be aware that an “invitation” to be on the property can be express (made directly) or implied. In other words, if the dog/property owner says, come on over at a certain time on a certain date, and you’re bitten while you’re on the property at the specified time and date, the owner is legally responsible. The owner is also legally responsible if he or she says “you’re welcome here anytime,” and you’re bitten when you stop by on a whim.
Exceptions to the rule
However, you should also be aware that you wouldn’t have a viable case if: The dog that bit you was a police K-9 or military dog acting in response to an “annoying, harassing, or provoking act.” Or, to put it differently – if you threw something at the dog, kicked it, or even got too close, and you got bitten, you couldn’t sue the military or law enforcement agency.
Secondly, you wouldn’t have a valid case if a police or military dog bit you while it was helping its handler:
- Arrest or detain you based on probable cause
- Investigate an actual or potential crime
- With the execution of a warrant
- Defend a peace officer or another person.
Of course, you may be able to pursue legal recourse if you could prove a police or military dog bit you without provocation, or in any circumstances other than those detailed above.
Call the Law Office of Parag L. Amin, P.C. for an assessment of your case, today
Regardless of the circumstances, being bitten by a dog is a serious matter that should be treated accordingly. Even a minor bite can leave lasting physical and emotional consequences. If you or a loved one was bitten and you are considering legal action, CONTACT US to schedule a confidential assessment of your case today.