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Special California Law for Child Victims of Dog Bites

Anytime someone is injured from dog bites, it can be terrifying, but when the victim is a child it’s even more horrifying to consider. Half of all dog bite victims are children younger than age eight. And nearly half of people killed by dog bites each year are children age two and younger. What’s even scarier is that 34% of all dog bite fatalities involve attacks from multiple dogs. For parents, this is truly frightening. To address the very real threat to young children from dog bites, the state of California treats them differently than when adults are bitten.

Here’s what you need to know about California laws covering dog bite attacks on adults versus children:

Even the First Bite Counts In many states, dog owners aren’t punished the first time their dog lashes out and bites someone. In California, though, a dog owner is liable from the very first time their pet sinks its teeth into a victim. The owner of the dog didn’t need to know that their dog was capable of biting or was potentially vicious prior to the attack. Liability kicks in as long as two criteria are met:

#1 The dog bite attack took place on either public property or while the victim was legally on private property

#2 The dog bite caused injury

Adult Victims are Treated Differently In California there are some limitations on liability when the dog bite victim is an adult. Here are three important factors that impact the rights of the victim after an attack and the potential liability of a dog bite owner:

#1 If the dog bite occurred when an adult victim was trespassing on private property, the owner’s liability may be limited

#2 If the dog attack didn’t result in a bite – for instance if the person was knocked down, clawed or jumped on, the liability may be limited

#3 If the dog bite was the result of provocation by the victim, the owner may not be liable since the victim assumed risk by provoking the attack

Special Rules for Dog Bite Victims Under Age 5 In California, case law has set a precedent of holding dog owners 100% liable when the victim their animal attacked was under age five. In cases related to attacks on adults, the law (criminal and civil) considers whether the victim acted negligently. With a child under age five, though, the state has specified that they are too young to knowingly act in a negligent manner and has ruled consistently in recent years that the dog owner cannot use a provocation defense against a young child. California has deemed that a child under age five is incapable of understanding that their actions might provoke a bite.

What Should You Do After Your Child Is Bitten By a Dog? The first concern when anyone is attacked by a dog is medical attention for the wound. If the bite is severe, a call to 911 for emergency attention is prudent. Because of the risk of infection and significant scarring, medical attention (even if not at the emergency room) should be sought promptly to ensure the best outcome. Most dog bite injuries to children are on the face and head resulting in serious lacerations that often leave the child with significant life-long scarring.

After medical care is taken care of, contact the law offices of Nelson Barry for a consultation on a claim against the dog’s owner. You should be compensated for the cost of medical treatment, any reconstructive surgery required to repair the wounds and for the pain and suffering your child endured as a result of the attack. If your child lost their life to a dog attack, a wrongful death suit may be recommended. Nelson has been fighting for victim’s rights for more than 30 years. All injury cases are accepted on a fee contingency basis so you won’t pay a fee unless we win. Contact us today to get started!

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