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Dog Bites Are Costing More Than Money in San Diego County

These are the types of headlines you hate to read: 3-Day-Old Baby Killed by Dog. Unfortunately, these type of headlines are far too common. Pets are commonplace and part of our lives. However, failure to take proper care of them or warn others when there is a danger can lead to serious injury and even death.

Losing a loved one is never easy. When someone is hurt as a result of a dog bite, the dog owner can be both criminally and civilly liable for the harm caused by the dog.

Who is Responsible for a Dog Bite?

The obvious answer is that the dog is responsible for a dog bite. However, there are other circumstances that make the owner just as liable. For instance, anyone who chooses to own a certain breed of dog is considered to be aware of the potential dangers associated with owning that type of dog. Therefore, if the dog bites someone, the owner is liable for the injury.

Dog owners are also responsible if they are aware of a dog’s history to bite people and fail to make proper warnings. For instance, if someone legally steps into someone’s yard (e.g., a postal worker) and gets bitten by a dog, they could potentially sue the owner if there were no warning signs, such as “beware of dog” posted on the perimeter.

What is the Penalty if a Dog Attacks?

In California, someone can be held both criminally and civilly liable if their dog causes harm to someone. The actual criminal sentence or civil judgment often depends on the amount of harm done. While there is no set limit to monetary damages, criminal penalties fall in line with California sentencing guidelines for the crime charged.

In 2013, the owners of two pit bulls in San Diego were sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. This after their dogs were found to have attacked and ultimately killed their neighbor. The victim was attacked by both dogs and had to have two limbs amputated and suffered nearly six months in the hospital before succumbing to her injuries.

While the above shows an extreme  example of criminal penalties, many dog bites don’t result in death and wind up costing the dog owner money as opposed to jail time. In 2015, the average award for a dog bite claim was $30,000.

Liability Extends to More than the Dog Owner

Yes, the owner of a dog can be liable but there are others who can be sued as well. For instance, a recent suit filed against the County of San Diego and an animal rescue organization who failed to notify the new owners of a dog of potential issues. A month prior to the dog being adopted, it had bitten another individual prior to biting the nose of an autistic man who became the new owner of the dog.

What to do if You Sustain a Dog Bite

If you or someone you know is bitten by a dog, you obviously need to seek medical attention prior to doing anything. Once you have taken care of any injury, contact an attorney to determine if you may be entitled to recover damages for the injury you sustained.


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