Who is Liable If You Are Bitten by a Loose Dog?

Home » Who is Liable If You Are Bitten by a Loose Dog?
November 27, 2021
Edward Smith

Dog on the Loose

It is a common occurrence – you head out for a walk in your neighborhood only to spot a dog roaming free and heading your way. Most of the time, fortunately, loose pups are friendly and are just curious pets who were able to break free from their owners’ yards. Sometimes, however, the dog may be aggressive. If you suffer a bite from a loose dog, what should you do?

Seek Medical Attention

Dog bites, even those that seem relatively minor, can lead to big problems. They are highly prone to infection. This is because they are puncture wounds combined with the fact that dog mouths are full of bacteria. Often, medical treatment will include lavage of the wound and leaving it open to heal. If the wound were stitched, this could further increase the risk of infection.  More serious dog attacks can be disabling, scarring, even deadly.  If the owner cannot be identified and the dog cannot be captured, you may need to undergo a series of rabies vaccinations.

Take Steps to Find the Owner of the Loose Dog

If your bite is relatively minor, it is prudent to take steps to identify the owner prior to heading to the doctor. Because medical treatment is most important, you should call a neighbor, friend, or spouse to have them handle this task for you. Some things that could lead to the identification of the owner:

  • Take a picture of the dog – post it on your neighborhood’s NextDoor site, or to a neighborhood group on Facebook. Ask for help identifying the dog’s owner.
  • Follow the dog – many loose dogs get out for brief periods then return to their homes.
  • If someone corrals the dog, have it checked for a microchip to identify the owner. This can be done at a veterinary office or animal shelter.
  • If the dog appears unkempt, undernourished, and uncollared, it may be a stray.

Watch the YouTube video. The clip below explains how pet microchipping works.

The Dog Owner is Legally Responsible for Your Injuries

Dog owners are obligated by California law to prevent their pets from biting other people. This is a strict liability law, which means that no negligence needs to be proven. Unless the injured person did something to provoke the attack, the mere fact that the dog caused injury makes the owner financially responsible for damages. Once an owner is identified, their contact information should be obtained, along with information about the dog, including its vaccination status. 

Another important question to ask the dog owner is if they have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Under most circumstances, these policies will be the source of financial recovery in a dog bite case. Many times, the owner will not have homeowners’ insurance because they rent their home or apartment. Not every renter has renter’s insurance. In some cases, the landlord may be held responsible, but proving landlord liability is much more complex. A skilled dog bite lawyer can help find viable defendants.

Unfortunately, it will be close to impossible to find a responsible party if the dog is a stray, but it still is worth a conversation with an experienced dog bite lawyer.

What Next?

Other important steps after seeking medical attention and identifying the dog owner are:

  • Notify animal control and make a report. Do this even if the owner tries to persuade you not to. The report of the bite will be important documentary evidence in your damages claim.
  • Keep track of your injuries and the healing process by taking pictures and keeping notes of your treatment and pain levels.
  • Save any other evidence of the attack, including bloody and torn clothing.

Personal Injury Attorneys in Placerville

I’m Ed Smith, a Placerville personal injury lawyer. The attorneys at AutoAccident.com have advocated for injured residents of Placerville for decades. If you have suffered injuries caused by another party’s negligence, we are available to offer free and friendly advice. Call us at (530) 392-9400 or (800) 404-5400.

The links below will take you to some of the client reviews and case results that have been obtained by our trusted injury lawyers.

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Photo by Joe Caione via Unsplash

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